Smartphone gaming apps: shopping trips for children in virtual worlds
G DATA shows parents how to safeguard themselves from expensive in-app purchases in games.
Which parent would allow their child to spend hundreds of Euros without supervision? None of course in the real world, but it’s a different matter with in-app purchases in games for smartphones and tablets. So-called Free-to-play games (F2P) offer time-limited game simplification tools for real money, or cosmetic objects such as new colours of clothing for the avatar. Often, children reach for their virtual wallets and go on shopping sprees - leading to a rude wake-up call for the parents at the end of the month. G DATA offers parents tips on how they can protect their children from expensive in-app purchases.
Smartphones and tablets have long been part of everyday life for children. Where previously they would collect and swap cards and stickers, or discuss the latest Pokemon episode, today playgrounds are dominated by smartphones and the apps on them. Hence it is no wonder that, according to the South-Western Association for Research into Media Pedagogy, almost a quarter of the 821 children surveyed in the 6- to 13-year age group play games on the smartphone every day or almost every day - and 29% of them once or more per week. That’s reason enough for parents to take a closer look at what their charge is playing on the smartphone - especially as the child has grown up with this technology and is often more comfortable handling the mobile device than the parents.
F2P games are free games that can be downloaded via the Google Play or Apple App stores. The advantage of these games is that you don’t end up making a duff purchase. Gamers can view the developers’ gaming apps entirely for free, so they can eventually decide whether or not to invest actual money in the in-game shop. These include cosmetic objects or time-limited game simplification tools such as doubling the experience points to enable faster progress through the game. The problem is when children want to make purchases and can do so without being supervised, because they know the required password or have the necessary permission. It has often happened in the past that thousands of Euros have been spent on F2P games. 5,000 Euros,7,000 Euros or even 15,000 Euros are no rarity here.
With G DATA Internet Security for Android, parents can now configure their children’s smartphones or tablets. Parental controls are fast and easy to set up in just a few steps – and when adults want to use the mobile device again, they can be quickly disabled by entering a pre-set password. For example, they can specify how long the child can play on the smartphone. They can also specify which individual apps can be launched. For young ones taking their first steps on the Internet, G DATA offers a browser set to the child-friendly fragFINN.de home page. Over 12,000 websites that have been categorised as educationally valuable and age-appropriate can be accessed via this search engine.
- Keep an eye on your child’s gaming behaviour: Parents don’t always know which games their youngsters are playing. That’s reason enough to play shared rounds of games with their young charges. For parents, this firstly provides sufficient insight for further discussion; secondly, it tells them a little more about which games the child enjoys playing.
- Have purchases confirmed with a password: Some gaming apps require an independent user name and password for purchases in order to carry out the transaction. Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store meanwhile always require confirmation of the transaction. Parents should err on the side of caution and never give the access data to their children. In all other cases, the next tip applies.
- Set up credit as a payment method: If you have agreed with your child that they can purchase virtual objects or time savings in in-app stores, a credit-based system can be selected as the payment method - pre-paid. This removes the risk of suddenly getting a large bill. Alternatively, no payment information can be set up, so that payment of any type is impossible.
- In serious cases, contact the provider: The stores where these game apps are found are often accommodating where unauthorised purchases by minors are concerned. Of course there is no guarantee of this, but it is worth trying as sales/agreements concluded by minors are provisionally invalid.
- Security solution for mobile devices: Another elegant solution is to install security software on the smartphone or tablet. For example, with G DATA Mobile Internet Security for Android, not only can you set a time-specific usage volume in intervals of 15 minutes for every app - apps such as Google Play Store can be blocked as well. This eliminates the risk of your child purchasing and downloading an app that costs money. Furthermore, calls, SMS messages and expensive special numbers can be blocked in the settings to prevent high telephone bills.