Apple In-App Purchases and why the teachable moment is for the Parents.

I got this in my email today and it has just set me off. Maybe it was because I was told that the sign above me at Home Depot that said “Online Order Pickup” was an early April Fools joke and I had to go to the other side of the store with steel shelving in hand, or it was the rain, or the fact that people love to smoke right outside doorways every hour or so… I don’t know, but this Apple “My Child is smart enough to make an in-app purchase, so lets punish Apple” cry-baby attitude about losing even hundreds of dollars just got under my skin. Here is the email:

Dear iTunes account owner,

Apple is committed to providing parents and kids with a great experience on the App Store. We review all app content before allowing it on our store, provide a wide range of age-appropriate content, and include parental controls in iOS to make it easy for parents to restrict or disable access to content.

We’ve heard from some customers that it was too easy for their kids to make in-app purchases. As a result, we’ve improved controls for parents so they can better manage their children’s purchases, or restrict them entirely. Additionally, we are offering refunds in certain cases.

Our records show that you made some in-app purchases, and if any of these were unauthorized purchases by a minor, you might be eligible for a refund from Apple.

Please follow the steps below to submit a refund request:

•     Find your in-app purchase records. Check your email for iTunes receipts or use a computer to sign in to your iTunes account and view your Purchase History.
•     Use this link to submit your refund request to Apple.
•     Provide the requested information and enter “Refund for In-App Purchases made by a minor” in the Details section.

Apple will review your request and contact you via email about your refund status. All refund requests must be submitted no later than April 15, 2015.
If you have any questions or need further assistance with your refund request, please contact Apple.

To learn more about parental controls in iOS, please see this article.
Thank you.

Okay. So, over a year ago, Comcast charged me for a movie that I wouldn’t possibly be interested in. You couldn’t PAY me to watch a movie about bomb disposal units in combat zones. According to Comcast, my one year old, at the time, apparently was and they even went so far as to say they wouldn’t remove the charge. So, I cancelled Cable. Boom, disposed of. I understand one thing, kids will learn to use a remote faster than parents will if the technology is new and the user interface is easy. Children soak up knowledge like a wet-vac, screw the sponge, they actively seek out information and solutions to problems.

The Apple in-app routine was nothing more than that. A problem. Easily overcome by figuring out their parents password, a simple 4 digit code on the lock screen and then the account password unless you authorize the device to make purchases without it… even then, the 4 digit code can be changed to a password phrase in settings interface. But here is the real issue.

The teachable moment here is not for the kids. The teachable moment is for the parents. They need to do one thing, and its something I’ve taught my now 3 year old… understand the risks of your actions and then do it anyway as long as you are prepared to bear the burden of those actions. Sure, they don’t understand the nuance in that phrase, but the teachable moment is, if they do something and are hurt or it hurts my wallet…


Apple In-App Purchases are the teachable moment for the Parents.

If my kid purchases something via iTunes/in-app purchases or elsewhere… two things will happen, I’ll try to get a refund and state that my child did it without me knowing, I’m an idiot and I apologize. If they don’t give a refund, I LEARN THE LESSON and change my password, increase its complexity, disable in-app purchases or even better, buy my child his own device, disable wifi/cellular and in-app purchases go away. Hobble the device in other ways, particularly by disabling the ability to make in-app purchases by simply making it impossible for them to guess your password. The tools have ALWAYS been there. (1.) Lock screen so they can’t get in without the parent, (2.) password unique to the parent account.

But lets go beyond that again, because I’ve said it time and time again to people I’ve discussed this with. It is not the job of Apple to protect your bank account from your children making purchases. It is your job as the parent, however, to teach your children to not make purchases they are not allowed to make and to understand that the password they’ve managed to figure out [my is extremely long and complex… or not, but I’ve said too much], means they aren’t supposed to be doing something.

My kid figured out how to turn on the TV/Home Theater and browse the iTunes library, go to Youtube on AppleTV and when he wants something, he comes to me and says “Papa, can I get Frozen?” to which I say… “No way kiddo, lets wait for the Blu-Ray, because physical media is dying and I want leave something more than an account full of bits that can’t be transferred to you when I die.”

Actually, I just say, nope, you watch 30 minutes of TV every once in a while. Keep learning your words and numbers and writing on YOUR OWN LOCKED DOWN IPAD!

Come on Parents, you know it is  your own damn fault for having a kid bright enough to make a purchase but lacking the guidance to know that it isn’t allowed. There is nothing that will prevent a child from making an in-app purchase except for TEACHING THE CHILD not to make a purchase without asking the parent and it’s your own damn fault.

James Hatch

I talk about business, technology, and society. I create new products and services. That's the elevator pitch. Deeper than that, I research myriad topics for my consultancy. Academically speaking; I have received a Masters in Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation, Masters in Information Technology with a focus on Information Security, a Masters in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing, a Bachelors in Entrepreneurism and Strategic Management, Associates in Business Administration, and Associates in Sociology. I'm also a Professor and Program Manager of Computer Science and Cybersecurity at the local Community College. Oh... I'm a gamer and streamer when I get a chance.

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