How to Prevent Your Child from Making In-App Purchases


by Shannon Kelly from Fueled, an iPhone application development house in

You knew that you would acquire a great deal of expenses when having children, but did you know that they could be draining your bank account when they are playing on mobile devices, without you even knowing it?

According to Gartner, in 2012 89% of downloads were of free apps. By 2016, it is predicted  that this percentage will rise to 93% of downloads. Just because you have allowed your child to download a free app or game does not mean you are safe from download debt. With many of these free apps, revenue is gained from In-App purchases (or IAPs).

What’s an In-App Purchase?

“Freemium” is the name given to these games that are free to download but contain IAPs for upgrades. IAPs come in various forms. Often they are used to enhance the playing of the game through buying coins, supplies, etc. They also may be in the form of buying more levels. It is simple and easy with just a click of a button. But what are the monetary consequences for you? Do we expect our young children to truly understand the monetary value of these purchases?

In April 2011, a suit was filed against Apple by a group of parents who were asking for financial relief of extensive expenses that were incurred from Apple’s implementation of the In-App purchasing ability which resulted in their children making purchases with a lack of understanding of the real-life monetary value. Prior to the upgrade of iOS 4.3, there was a window of time where reauthorization of the iTunes password was not required to make further purchases immediately after the download of the app. A request to dismiss the case was filed but denied.

That window of time may have been eliminated with the new update, but the problem remains. Perhaps you have given your child the password to your iTunes account, or they have figured it out. This makes IAPs as simple as typing in that password.  If you have your bank account to linked to iTunes, you could soon find yourself out of a lot of money, without even knowing it! We do not expect our children to understand how much money they are really spending when buying all those apples to feed their animals on their virtual farm, which is why this situation is so concerning.

Oh no!  What can I do to stop this?

Here are the steps to turn off In-App purchasing ability:

  • Turn off the In-App purchase ability on your child’s device by going to Settings->General->Restrictions->Enable Restrictions->Enter a Passcode for Restrictions.
  • Once you do this, turn the In-App Purchases ability off. (This is located under Restrictions-> Allowed Content)

If you don’t want to restrict your child from having fun when they download these apps, but also don’t want to drain your bank account, here is a simple solution. Instead of linking a credit card to your iTunes account, use a giftcard.


  • Purchase an iTunes giftcard for the specific amount you would allow your child to use on games.
  • Log into your iTunes account, click Account Information.
  • Under Apple ID Summary, click Payment Type and Redeem giftcard.


Entertainment is a big part of childhood. We do not want to take this away from our children, but we do need to protect ourselves from incurring debts. Follow these simple steps to prevent such a situation!

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