Managing your Apps, Managing your Kids

Apps have become the cornerstone of modern technology, offering everything you’d ever need, right at your fingertips. Apps are increasingly used for both business and fun, delivering retail, games, utilities and more.

The good news is that many apps are cheap or free, however many apps also contain hidden costs, so it pays to read the detail and study the terms and conditions before starting your download.

In-App purchases are the primary cause of hidden costs, particularly for children’s games. Kids’ games are often offered for free, attracting parents and children alike. Once kids start playing however, they can be prompted to make in-app purchases, which are then charged back to Mum or Dad’s credit card (via their app store account).

As you can imagine, it’s easy for kids to click away without realizing that they’re spending actual money. As such, it’s important that parents understand how to avoid any accidental purchases.

Here are some quick tips to help you out:

  • Read the app store reviews to identify quickly whether game has caused a headache for other parents when it comes to in-app purchases.
  • Create a second iTunes (or other app store) account that isn’t linked to a credit card. Use this as your primary account when downloading games.
  • Set a secure PIN or password for the account that’s linked to your credit card. Avoid sharing these codes with your kids.
  • If you want to limit paid downloads – rather than block them completely – a voucher for the app store is a great option and will help your child understand the importance of managing money.

If you’re ready to take stronger measures, you can also set background controls on your accounts to avoid unwanted purchases.

  • Consider contacting your service provider to discuss whether they can set a spending limit on your account. This can also sometimes be done when setting up the app store account.
  • Apple users can go to their ‘Settings’ menu and choose ‘Restrictions’. You can then select whether to set a password for in-app purchases or whether to disable them totally.
  • If you’re using an Android device, you can switch on restrictions by going to the Google Play store and choosing ‘Settings’. Select ‘User Controls’ and check the box to enable passwords for paid apps or in-app purchases.
  • Another option for Android users (version 4.3 or above) is to set-up profiles for your kids. This not only allows parents to disable in-app purchases, but it also lets you establish a list of apps that are approved to download. It’s important to note however that some apps are not compatible with this feature and can sometimes override restrictions.
  • Outside of the settings, Android offers apps for parents that will allow them to set controls on their kids’ downloads. Vodafone Guardian is one example.
  • BlackBerry smartphones allow parents to restrict the use of apps and other services, which includes blocking the installation of third-party apps. Further information on parental controls is available on the BlackBerry website.

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