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In-app purchases are a great idea, and have helped spurn a whole raft of “freemium” apps -- download the app for free, and if you like it, buy more. As it turns out, it may be the kids who are going on expensive buying sprees with their parents’ devices.
NPR (via Associated Press) is reporting that parents everywhere are experiencing one of the major downsides to letting their toddlers play with their iPhone or iPad: In-app purchases, which are racking up some big bucks thanks to kids accidentally tapping to buy.
Take for instance the popular Smurfs’ Village app for the iPad, which like many of the highest-grossing apps these days, is absolutely free to download -- so how did a free game wind up costing one parent in California a whopping $66.88 on her credit card? In this case, it happened to be her four-year-old son buying one bushel and 11 buckets of “Smurfberries” (tokens used to speed up gameplay) via in-app purchases.
"Really, my biggest concern was them scratching the screen. Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would be charging things on it," 36-year-old mother Kelly Rummelhart told the AP. But she takes solace in the fact that her son didn’t start tapping repeatedly on the “wheelbarrow” of Smurfberries at a mere $59.99 each.
Rummelhart isn’t alone -- the 17 highest-rated comments on The Smurfs’ Village App Store page are all complaints about the insanely high cost of Smurfberries these days, with two of the commenters flat-out calling it a “scam.” It’s not only the Smurfs game from Capcom -- others such as Tap Zoo and Bakery Story have the ability to rack up $100 in-app purchases with only two taps.
For their part, Smurfs’ Village publisher Capcom calls the dilemma “lamentable” and has added a warning about in-app purchases to the game’s description; they’ll also soon add them to the game itself. After the warning was posted, the game fell from top-grossing to the number four spot in the App Store.
Thankfully, the solution for parents is simple: From the Settings app on any iOS device, tap the General button then the Restrictions option and toggle the switch for In-App Purchases to off (you’ll also need a four-digit password to turn any restrictions on). While you’re at it, you might consider also turning off iTunes, Installing Apps and Deleting Apps as well, to avoid those little fingers causing further accidental mayhem.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter
(Image courtesy of NPR and Associated Press)