3 Tips for Preventing Your Kids from Making Mobile In-App Purchases

On December 9th, 2014, Google signed off on a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the tune of a $19 million refund for families whose children have made in-app purchases without their consent. We are living in an era where games and other mobile applications make their chief income from micro-transactions, and our children have a very strong tendency to be tempted by them. Most parents do not mind giving their children their own mobile devices to fool around with, but there are many inevitable consequences that can bring you to financial ruin. We will discuss below some ways in which you can avoid this issue in the future.

1. Give your children their own device.


This is a fairly obvious piece of advice, but nevertheless something that should be on your mind if it wasn’t already. If you have the money to dump on a new mobile device, do it. You may save yourself a ton of headaches in the future by not having one “family tablet” for everyone. Typically, all of your accounts are logged in already once you hand your tablet over to someone. That’s just one step away from being able to use your identity and financial information to make unwarranted purchases. If you can’t afford to adopt a “one tablet per child” policy, you’re not out of luck. There are other countermeasures you can apply.

2. If you don’t make purchases through your tablet, don’t give your child your financial information.


Once I became an adult, my mother trusted me with her credit card number and its security code. Despite my diligence in ensuring that I wouldn’t abuse this information, it’s not recommended to do this, even if your child is trustworthy and all grown-up. You introduce yourself to risk, no matter how small. If your child needs something, buy it. Having your financial information opens you up to the possibility of having in-app purchases made in your name. This isn’t about trust; it’s about risk. Your child could be very trustworthy but might do something that seems innocuous at some point in time while accidentally exposing you to theft.

By giving your financial details to anyone, you’re betting everything you have in that account that you’re not going to be compromised as a consequence of this.

3. Make your purchases password-protected.

So, why did so many parents end up with their kids making micro-transactions without their consent? The answer to this is it was very easy to do it. If your credit card information is stored on your Google account, all they had to do was push a few buttons and it was a done deal. No passwords are involved in the process. The tablet, since it’s tied to your account with “once-only” authentication, is basically a larger version of your credit card. To activate password protection on Android tablets, do the following:

  • Open up Google Play (where you download new apps).
  • Tap on the menu icon and enter “Settings”.
  • Select “Require authentication for purchases” and then select whether you want the authentication for each purchase (“all purchases”) or every 30 minutes.

You’ll have to re-type your password to apply this setting. Once you’re done, anyone who uses your tablet will have to know your account password to make a purchase. Just be sure not to expose your password after that!

If you feel that there’s more to this you’d like to add, or have any questions, leave a comment below!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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