One of the reasons for recent high-profile cases of children spending lots of money inside apps is that many parents don’t really understand in-app purchases and how to restrict them.
Apple is taking action. The company has launched a Learn More About In-App Purchases’ guide on its App Store, which explains in clear language what they are, how they work, and how parents can restrict them.
“It’s easy to restrict your child’s ability to make In-App Purchases on an iOS device,” explains the guide. “Just open Settings, tap General, then tap Restrictions. Tap Enable Restrictions to find various parental control options, including the ability to turn off In-App Purchases.”
It also links through to a specific Understanding Restrictions guide on Apple’s website. It’s a welcome move, although there may be scope for Apple to do more when it launches its iOS 7 software later in the year.
For example, a full Kids Mode for iPhones and iPads that locks off their parents’ apps, email and web browsing. Or perhaps an on-device tutorial that asks people ‘Will children be using this device?’ the first time they set it up, and guides them through the restrictions process if the answer is yes.
It’s also important for parents to take responsibility in other ways: for example by never sharing their iTunes password with their children – something that’s often been the main problem in cases where kids have spent lots of money on in-app purchases.
Last month, Apple made it clearer in App Store listings whether apps used in-app purchases with a more prominent warning. The new guide shows it’s continuing its education efforts for parents, and iOS users more generally.