How kids spend money in online games, apps and even YouTube, and how you can protect your wallet from it.
Giving toddlers and kids the smartphone or tablet to play with may be fine, but if you do, remember that a few taps can cost you dearly, even with apps for kids that are actually free of charge. Teenagers have often made the headlines with in-game purchases, but even preschoolers can put families in a difficult financial situation. Read on to discover how to prevent the smallest of the family from unknowingly draining your bank account.
What are the risks?
Toddlers will most likely not participate in live eSports betting nor make donations to streamers on YouTube or Twitch. Computers and game consoles are also usually reserved for older children. But little kids can tap on a flash banner in a cartoon video, purchase extra lives and equipment in an online game, or tinker with the settings, completely unknowingly looting your bank account.
Advertising in cartoons
These risks are also taken by people who don’t allow their children to play online games, but do let them occasionally watch kid-friendly cartoons on YouTube. It’s not hard to imagine a toddler tapping a banner ad in bright colors that suddenly pops up on the screen in the middle of a video. If that single tap leads to Google Play, the app store or an online store, kids can effortlessly download games or buy something there.
Young Internet-savvy family members may accidentally subscribe to YouTube Premium or other paid online services. Often this is not even noticed that quickly, because the charges are often only calculated after a free trial period.
Mobile games and educational apps
Curiously, some seemingly harmless, free online games can empty your wallet faster than paid games. In the standard model – which is one of the most lucrative for developers – users get the game for free, but have to pay for additional options and virtual items (items). If you thought that only teenagers with computer game addiction could spend a considerable amount of money on a Sword of a Thousand Truths Or similar equipment to hand out, you are completely wrong. Even a preschooler who can’t even write yet and only has access to age-appropriate apps can be a big drain on the family budget without realizing they’ve blown real money.
You may find this hard to believe? Maybe, but unfortunately it happens quite often. Just to give a few examples: In Connecticut, a six-year-old child spent over 16.000 while playing on his mother’s iPad, and a seven-year-old child in the UK accidentally paid $1.200 £ (1.$700) in online games, including £800 ($1,100) for online cat food.
The mindset of preschoolers
Toddlers are curious by nature, especially when it comes to new gadgets. Most children under the age of five have not yet learned to read and therefore find pictures in bright colors far more interesting than words (this is still the case even with some adults). This is why children click on banners carelessly without thinking about the consequences.
At this age, it’s not really worth explaining the complicated free-to-play business model or the principles of online shopping – depending on the age, the child won’t even understand that the gems and delicacies in the fairytale world of games and cartoon videos cost real money in the real world. For this reason, it is important to adjust the payment methods on mobile devices, so that the online activities of your little angels do not lead to the bankruptcy of the family. Fortunately, this is now possible on almost all devices.
How does your child get your smartphone or tablet?? The obvious choice is to give your child the mobile device. Nowadays, there are many parents who buy a smartphone for their schoolchild to be able to call him/her at any time. In other families, kids borrow mobile devices from their parents or simply take the phone or tablet without asking. We’ve put together some tips for the various scenarios that can help you protect your bank account.
You lend your mobile device to your child
There are few parents who never gave their child the phone or tablet to have their peace of mind for a while. On the other hand, there are many parents who do this without thinking about security settings. Depending on the age and responsibility level of the child in question, there are some handy options available to guardians:
- Set password entry or authentication for purchases in Google Play or make the appropriate password settings in the App Store to avoid unintended payments so that all transactions, including in-game purchases, must be approved by password or fingerprint verification.
- Enable guest mode for your child if your mobile device has this feature. On some Android devices, it is possible to add new users and switch between profiles. On iPhones and iPads, you can set up guided access to limit access to a single app and control which app features are available. This feature even lets you set either the entire screen or certain areas to stop responding to a touch.
- Enable transaction notifications in your banking app so you’re always notified immediately of any payments and discover any unintentional spending before it’s too late.
- Set a spending limit when your child is old enough to make small purchases on their own. Many banks allow you to set these limits depending on the category, such as video games.
- It may also be wise to consider a prepaid credit card that you can load with the desired balance. Some banks offer the option to set up a special account that allows you to manage your child’s spending. Some banks even have banking apps for kids that may include budgeting tips and recommendations for parents on how to set up payments to your kids in exchange for doing chores.
Your child has his or her own smartphone
Protecting a mobile device used by only one child is a little easier because you don’t have to create separate accounts with different access rights.
- You can create a Google account, or an Apple ID for your child, and then use the operating system’s parental controls to set purchase restrictions and also block inappropriate content like violent games or movies.
- Enable authentication for all purchases. On Android devices, you can block all paid content from being downloaded on Google Play, or limit in-app spending through purchase approval settings. If you set up the purchase permissions on Google Play, the system will ask for the password when the child tries to download something. Apple mobile devices have the Purchase Request feature that allows the Family Organizer Notify when the child wants to download paid apps, and he can then decide whether to approve or decline the purchase.
- Using Screen time you can prevent unintended or unauthorized purchases from the App Store and other Apple services. You can require a password to be entered for purchases, prevent certain types of purchases, or disable purchases completely.
- Be sure to install kid-friendly apps on your child’s mobile device, such as YouTube Kids instead of the regular YouTube app. These types of apps usually contain fewer ads and the content is filtered.
- Install a reliable parental control solution on the Internet. With Kaspersky Safe Kids, for example, you can limit purchases and also check how much time your child spends in an app or on a visited website.
What can I do if my child takes my smartphone without my permission?
All parents know that it is important to be prepared for unforeseen incidents, resp. Know that the mobile device could end up in someone else’s hands – not only because someone could steal it or lose it, but also because your child might grab it when you’re not looking.
- Enable an automatic screen lock with a maximum of 10 to 15 seconds.
- Keep your password secret and choose a combination that’s complicated enough that it can’t be easily omitted when typed in.
- Make it a habit to keep your mobile device with you and not put it somewhere unnoticed.
What can I do if money has already been deducted from my account?
If you discover unexpected expenses in your bank statement and it turns out that the culprit was your own child, you can try to get your money back. Note, however, that refunds on Google Play may not be possible if you don’t have authentication enabled. Similar refund requests can also be made to the App Store and iTunes. Also, remember that you are generally free to contact the game or app developer directly.
As long as you create the right precautions, it is not necessary to forbid your child from using mobile devices nor to say goodbye to your savings forever. By setting up the mobile device correctly, you can avoid possible incidents and offer your child the opportunity to become familiar with online payments in a safe way over time, as well as being good with money in general.