Parents Corner

Preventing Unwanted In-App Purchases


Many parents now find unexplained transactions on their credit cards, thanks to the rise of “in-app purchases”. In-app purchases refers to buying goods from inside of an application on a mobile device. Most children’s apps and games are free to download but make their profit this way.

A recent study found that 95% of games targeted at children have at least one advertisement. Despite this, children are not developmentally equipped to respond to manipulative marketing strategies used to push in-app purchases.

Advertising can be positioned seamlessly into gameplay, making it difficult for children to know the difference. Many children don’t even know that they are spending real money in these games.

Emotional strategies can particularly be difficult for children. On Roblox, many in-game items are advertised as “for a limited time only”, creating pressure to buy now or miss out. Peer pressure also contributes heavily to Roblox purchases as the game has a hot topic in the school yard.

While regulators get to grips with the issues, there are unfortunately few protections for parents who find themselves out of pocket for their children’s in-app purchases. Parents are often refused refunds by their financial institutions, the app’s carrier Apple Store or Android Play Store, or the app’s creator. Therefore, prevention is better than cure!

It is important to ensure you are supervising children’s use of devices, especially for children under 5 years old.

Children need support and guidance to discern and manage online advertising. It is important for children to express their wants, but we all must learn to manage the disappointment of not getting something we had our heart set on.

Make sure you lock or set up two-step authentication for in-app purchases on any devices used by children. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can lock in-app purchases through your App Store settings. On Android devices, you can configure the settings in Google Play so that all purchases require two-step authentication, meaning you will receive an email or SMS requiring you to finalise a purchase.

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Article Written + Submitted by

Monica Purcell | Family Facilitator

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services


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