Mobile apps and kids

Mobile users love their apps and games and this includes children.

While many mobile apps and games are free or inexpensive, some can be costly if they include the ability for players or users to make “in-app purchases” while playing the game or using the app.

Such “in-app purchases” are basically online purchases made during the playing of the mobile app game and they can only be made if credit card details are linked to the account used to download the app or game.

Always carefully read the terms and conditions before purchasing and downloading any app or game so you aren’t caught out.

Children may not always be mature enough to spend responsibly or understand that they are spending real money while playing such a game and it is important that parents are aware of the apps that their children download and how they use them. It pays to read the reviews and ratings of any app before downloading it.

Here are some ways you can manage in-app purchases:

  • Do not share any account passwords or PINs with your child that will allow them to make purchases from your mobile device. Enable your phone’s security settings  – PINs, fingerprint lock or face recognition – so that your child cannot make purchases.
  • Do not allow your child to use an app store or account that is linked to a credit card. Instead create another unlinked account just for them and protect your linked account with a password, PIN, fingerprint lock or face recognition.
  • You can provide your child with a voucher  or gift card for online purchases for their unlinked account which will limit your child’s ability to download apps or make in-app purchases.
  • Sometimes spend limits can be set for an account, either by contacting your mobile service provider or when you set up the app store account.
  • Your phone’s operating system and settings may also allow you to set controls on spending or in-app purchases.

The ACCC has some advice for consumers concerned about in-app purchases here.

ASIC’s MoneySmart Teaching program has some very useful interactive digital activities that teach kids about how to be mobile phone savvy including being aware of in-app purchasing, how to avoid bill shock and understand mobile phone advertising.