back to article Apple erects measures to stop app-happy kids splurging parents' dosh

Apple has handed new guidelines to App Store software programmers to prevent kids from racking up huge bills from in-app purchases. The fruity firm has come under pressure to protect kids from spending all their parents' cash on virtual rubbish in games, such as smurfberries or vegetables. The new guidelines, available from the …

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Strange

How many young goats can actually afford an iThing in the first place?

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Trollface

Re: Strange

How many young goats can actually afford an iThing in the first place?

Maybe they get them from trolls!

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Devil

@ Pen-y-gors - Re: Strange

What is the article actually about? I can't read it because my ISP blocked the page; apparently it has the words "kids" and "erect" in close proximity, which suggested that it's CP*.

Child Porn, not Claire Perry.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Strange

It does sound oddly unprofessional, doesn't it?

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Re: Strange

They don't have to necessarily own one. Within ten minutes of arriving my five year old granddaughter usually asks "Can I play games on your phone Granddad." She knows there are three rules 1. She isn't allowed to walk about with it, 2. She is only allowed to play the games I have in her folder and 3. No drinks allowed while she is playing it. I have in app purchases permanently disabled and use it only when I require it to be (which so far is never).

If you are going to let children use your phone/tablet, then YOU need to take responsibility for what happens on or to it. I've tried to cover the bases but, ultimately I let her use the phone, so if anything bad happens, there is no one else to blame other than myself.

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They should just ban these outrageous in app payments and charge a bit more for the game in the first place. For example, I was looking at the smurfs village the other day an the "smurfberries" are extortionately priced - £99 yes nearly 100 quid, for 2000 of them.

That game will not be going anywhere near my tablet.

NOTE: All payments on my table are password protected so there is no chance of buying these in app purchases but it grates me all the same.

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FAIL

You know how to use your tablet and have set appropriate levels of security on it - hell, you actually know what a tablet is, I've met people who will only recognise what a tablet is if you qualify it with "like an iPad".

Your appraoch is in direct contract to the thousands of parents who buy shiny stuff and have no idea how it really works, and then shove it in front of their kids as a digital dummy...yes, these companies are detestable and ruthless for selling such horribly priced worthless goods but the clueless parents are providing a market for it, so they should probably educate themselves on how to use their £400 gadget before leaving it with a child.

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"...they should probably educate themselves on how to use their £400 gadget before leaving it with a child."

If nothing else, parents ought to take an interest at the point where their child tells them that their credit card details are required to proceed with some game.

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The game is using the iTunes/App Store payment functionality, so it uses the credit card already on file with the iTunes account. It doesn't prompt for credit card details. That's what makes this particularly nasty.

Besides passwords, another option is to not associate a credit card with the iTunes account and to fund it with iTunes gift cards instead (conveniently available in your grocery store's checkout line, at least around here.) Better yet, give your kids an allowance and make them pay for the iTunes gift cards with their allowance money. That should make it pretty darn clear that those virtual smurfberries are being bought with cold, hard, real-world cash.

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"Besides passwords, another option is to not associate a credit card with the iTunes account and to fund it with iTunes gift cards instead"

This is the best option, if the devices is mostly used by the child in question. I have friends who have bought tablets, iPod Touch's and other shiny for their children as a placebo. Not associating a credit card is by far the safest way to go. If it is just a password, then they WILL figure it out eventually.

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Why just guidelines?

Why can't Apple enforce this crap, such as banning games with in-game purchases from the kid's cartegories. Or requiring them to use some app permission which is far more stringent about enforcing PIN protection and purchase limits?

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Re: Why just guidelines?

Because then nobody would make money on kids games and so nobody would sell them and so Apple wouldn't get 40%

It's like asking why they don't ban characters in kids films and TV shows from appearing on breakfast cereal and fast food.

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Re: Why just guidelines?

Well that's the point isn't it? Apple (and Google) think it's okay for this shit to be sale on kids as long as they can cover their asses by pretending there are "guidelines" that apps must follow and as long as they get their cut. Even though they could set a rule that prevents any app in a kid's category from making more than a $10 worth of purchases in month by default. But that would cut into their profits and we can't have that can we?

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They do it on purpose

A lot of psychology goes into game design. They know that people don't like spending money too often, so they make you buy one large bag of Smurfberries instead of several smaller purchases of the actual things you need. They know that people seek out value for money, which is why the jumbo bag of Smurfberries costs $9.99 for 1,350 berries, while the smaller bag costs $0.99 for 100 berries. They use awkward numbers like 1,350 to prevent you from making comparisons too easily. There's the old slot-machine favourite, "insert 50p to keep playing" after your character dies. The developers get realtime feedback on how many players are paying or quitting at each point in the game, so they can fine-tune the experience and squeeze the maximum cash from you.

More excellent insights can be found in the article "The Top F2P [Free-to-Play] Monetization Tricks":

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/RaminShokrizade/20130626/194933/The_Top_F2P_Monetization_Tricks.php

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Re: They do it on purpose

Seconding reading the article. It's informative, interesting, and if you've studied psychology, makes a lot of sense in that you can see that happening. But I do have to add this warning: If you're in mobile development, even if it's not games, you'll want to take a shower after reading it. The tactics are depressingly sleazy.

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@Buzzword - Re: They do it on purpose

A very interesting (if depressing) read.

Another example might be the way that, now that EA Games has taken over the Gamehouse Scrabble Game on Facebook, you no longer get the "Number of tiles left in the bag" feature for free, so if you're getting to the end of the game you can't (easily) figure out what tiles your opponent may have, instead you have to pay "just" £9.99 to buy the feature.

(Although there's already an add on for Chrome written by game fans which does this for free!)

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Childcatcher

Re: They do it on purpose

Of course they do it on purpose just like the put chocolate at the supermarket checkout so kids will pester their parents into buying.

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Re: They do it on purpose

> kids will pester their parents into buying

And kids are efficient, um ... pesterers.

The AEF puts the total spending power of US children at around $1 trillion per annum.

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Facepalm

I still don't see how it's Apple/Google's fault if you don't learn to use the kit you bought. Want to demand your money back? Ask the game manufacturer, they own the damn software that caused the problem! Even more so with the new mobile rental software model we all agree to use these days. The tablet/phone is just a platform for the game. If you're so inclined to make a fuss, then start suing some of these game makers, I bet you'll soon see some serious work done on education and in-app procedure tightening if a few software houses start having to give back the money they made!

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Because their lawyers are probably point out that they have a public policy of vetting all apps before they appear in their stores, they are also doing the billing for the apps. As such in a court of law they are probably liable if the court finds that the bill has been run up using illegal tricks or techniques (i.e. cons, confidence tricks, and fraud).

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Meh

"The tablet/phone is just a platform for the game."

... made by a company with a huge vested interested in getting punters to punt as much as possible?

Maybe more than "just" a platform, since most of the profits come from what's done with it.

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@FredBloggsY

Say what? The amount of money Apple makes from apps is a drop in the bucket compared to their overall profits. They've sold $10 billion worth of apps in all the time they've been selling them, which gives Apple $3 billion from its 30% cut. They make more than that from the first month's sales of a new model of iPhone.

Could Apple do more to hamstring the bad actors developing games targeted at getting kids to spend money on useless in-app "stuff" like smurfberries? Sure, but if they do it too much, those game developers will just flee to Android, since Google doesn't have any sort of walled garden the games developers will be free to pull their underhanded tricks there. Before you say "parental controls", these exist on iOS too, the problem is parents don't know how to secure their devices until its too late.

Now that Android tablets are outselling iPads, there will be more of these types of games coming to Android since parents buying a tablet for a small child are probably going to want to buy one for $150 instead of $450, knowing that it has a higher than average likelihood of being broken when its left in the hands of an 8 year old.

Google takes the same 30% cut Apple does, when the reports of kids spending $1000 of their parents money on berries on an Android tablet start coming out, will you make the same claims about Google you did for Apple? The amount Google makes from its 30% cut is of course a similarly trivial percentage of Google's overall profit.

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Trollface

Ok so Kids are sorted

But what about Children?

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h3
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People shouldn't be able to do this type of stuff.

(Not ethical).

Bill Hicks had it completely right on advertising.

If Apple really cared about kid's they would ban advertising to children completely.

It would never happen to me but I don't give a damn I still don't think it should happen to anybody.

This sort of thing should be regulated like they want to make bitcoin.

(Only thing that will make these parasites stop is lots of chargebacks).

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h3
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Visa and Mastercard should just force Apple to use Verifed by Visa (And its Mastercard equivalent) for these things.

(And they would if they had the choice of that or not accepting cards).

Along with making that it looks completely independent from the game.

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Anonymous Coward

phew.that $50 blue pumpkin can still reach in-app sales greatness

I was worried for a second.

$35 for me, $15 for Apple.

We sill have a deal!

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Unhappy

mobile TV's

We had TV's to occupy our dead brain space, and books to help us learn and the rest of the outside world to play in. Now people give kids ithings, googly-bits and such to occupy them instead, "because they are learning tools" therefore good for the young Einsteins to use, outside play is a thing of the past because of scary germs and pervs.

give the kids a bucket and spade and let em loose in the garden for a bit, they will learn things no ithingy can ever teach.

just another generation of " I need constant entertainment" but then again they are being raised by the trendsetters of that particular mantra

[icon because I am a grumpy old fart]

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Unhappy

Re: mobile TV's "...icon because I am a grumpy old fart"

As one grumpy old fart to another I have to say that I entirely agree. "Sad Face" to express solidarity you understand!

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h3
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Re: mobile TV's

When my Grandad was young he used to mess about making fireworks using concentrated nitric acid and other stuff that he bought as a kid from the chemist who sold that sort of stuff and he used to walk to infant school on his own from when he first started.

It is just getting more and more unreasonable. (Be like the Simpsons where Bart is in that circular see through ball before long).

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Ya know

I'll defend apple on this one.

If someone is careless enough to hand over a chainsaw or the car keys to their kid, the ensuing badness is not the manufacturer's fault. And I don't think that, "aww shucks. I never bothered to learn how to use it safely", would garner the parent much sympathy. Why should it be any different for a phone or tablet?

Don't get me wrong though, the people who make games which induce children to make in-app, cash purchases are scum and I'd be happy to see them dropped into the scorpion pit alongside the spammers.

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Devil

Disconnect and find freedom and peace! (Another grumpy old fart)

Timothy Leary once said "Turn On, Tune In and Drop Out" then during the '90's PC revolution he is supposed to have said "Turn On, Boot Up & Jack In".

I say it's time to Turn Off, Disconnect, and Live Life!

There is too much of this connected 24/7/365 world with the expectation that the only way to communicate is through electronic means. Apparently many adults and kids can't live without electronic mental masturbation, even to the point of suffering digital withdrawl (no not the finger).

Shut the Damn Thing Off! Play a real game, communicate and interact face to face with actual people.

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DON'T PANIC!!

Things are not as bad as they appear: Rude, crude, costly and obtrusive advertising will continue to be delivered reliably to your children. And adults. And the eldery (if there are any using iPhones).

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This has everything to do with Kara Swisher's comment to Tim Cook during the AllThingsD interview about one of her kids blasting $3000 in a few hours on apps.

Thanks for fixing the problem but it shouldn't take a live comment at a CEO to highlight it.

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Flame

What's her problem then, because it's not lack of understanding technology.

Yes, it's shitty parenting, just interested enough to turn the shiney on and fill it with games but not interested enough to read reviews, put parental controls on the store, or actually be with the kid while they use the tablet.

Something Must Be Done. And this time not with Apple or Google, otherwise free apps with stupid-priced DLC or intrusive or inappropriate advertising wouldn't actually work, they'd be uninstalled and that method of revenue generation wouldn't be viable.

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Anonymous Coward

Morals optional?

"And the iPhone giant is looking for an App Store Kids & Education Editor to work in its London office. "

No mention of familiarity with the laws and other rules concerned with selling to children. Actually, to be really picky, the entire page doesn't even use the words "child" or "children" once.

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Zot
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But this is not the main problem.

The only problem Apple needed to fix is the 10 minutes after someone has entered their password. During that time the kid is handed back the iDevice and does not need to enter the password again for 10 minutes. This happened to the family who won compensation for the costs run up by their little monster, through further 'items' bought in the game. "Do you want more gems?"

In App purchases have wrecked gaming IMHO, and turned it into something like the cash grabbing arcades from the late 80s.

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Bah

If Apple were serious - then they'd allow a system where free stuff could be added without needing the AppleID Pasword. As it is - parents & grandparents give the phone to the kids - kids learn pwd when they ask Grandpa to download temple run or something. Setting up & managing separate AppleIDs is a no go for most users.Instead there should be a 2-tier security system with a separate password for free stuff for kids. But it always comes back to the 30%...

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Article is wildly mistitled and misleading

There is nothing in those items that do anything to prevent kids from spending money while using iThingy's.

The only thing those items do is add a privacy policy and tell them to not advertise based on what people are clicking on in the game.

The correct title should be "Apple curtails advertisements in kids games."

If they wanted to "erect measures to stop app-happy kids splurging parent's dosh" then they would do one of the following: 1. completely prevent in app purchases in kids games; 2. Require purchase verification through a desktop app (iTunes); 3. Put a reasonable monthly spending limit such as $20US which would require the account owners password to override.

All of those options are feasible and would actually do something. The new guidelines however don't do what you said they do.

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