Kids love iPads and iPhones. They're a great way to keep children entertained during the summer holidays, with hundreds of apps available for them to enjoy, including games, books, educational apps. However, in light of a recent bout of incidences that saw parents faced with huge iTunes bills after their kids had unwittingly downloaded apps and in-app purchases, it's worth taking precautions to ensure that your children aren't able to do the same while using your iOS device.
Recently, it was revealed that Apple has agreed to refund at least $32.5 million (£20m) to parents whose kids racked up huge bills through in-app purchases in the US. The agreement is to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint. As part of the settlement, Apple will also be required to change its billing practices by 31 March 2014 to help prevent these occurances from happening in the future.
According to FTC, Apple has received tens of thousands of complaints about unauthorised in-app purchases downloaded by kids.
On 30 January, the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced the introduction of new in-app purchase standards that were decided following a year-long investigation, and gave developers two months to update their apps to comply with the new guidelines.
From 1 April 2014, all apps should clearly disclose information about the costs associated with a game before it is downloaded, ensure that users are not led to believe they are required to pay in order to proceed if payment is not necessary, provide information about the app developer to enable the consumer to get in touch to make a complaint, and insist on "informed consent".
Additionally, the new principles also mean developers will no longer be able to use language that disguises the commercial intent of any in-game promotion or paid-for content. For example, if an app uses similar language to encourage the player to buy one thing with in-game currency and the other with real money, it's unlikely to comply with the OFT standards as it's difficult distinguish when real money is required. Another example is if a game encourages the player to play an aspect of the game that cannot be completed without making a payment.
These new guidelines should help prevent children from unintentionaly spending real money within apps, but until they're enforced on 1 April, here's our advice about how to stop kids making in-app purchases without permission.
The easiest way to make sure that your kids don't end up downloading any apps or in-app purchases on your iOS device is to ensure that they never get hold of your password.
Each time they want to download or purchase something, it will ask for your Apple ID password. Enter your password yourself every time.
How to turn on restrictions on iPhone, iPad
However, you should be aware that, when you enter your password, the default is that it will not need to be entered again for 15 minutes. Within that time, your children could accidentally download hundreds of pounds worth of in-app purchases.
For example, in 2013, five-year-old Danny Kitchen was playing Zombies vs Ninja when he asked his dad for the password to the family iTunes account so that he could download the free-to-play app. However, Danny then went on to download a £69.99 in-app purchase 19 times within the next ten minutes as the password did not need to be entered again.
To change this setting and prevent this from happening, go to Settings > General > Restrictions, and then change the 'Require Password' setting to 'Immediately'. Now, every time your child goes to buy something, whether it is an app or in-app purchase, they'll be asked to type in the password before they can progress further.
To stop your kids from having access to the Restrictions menu and changing the settings back (if your kids are a little older and more tech-savvy), you'll be asked to set up a PIN code.
How to restrict acces to apps on iPhone, iPad
You can ensure that your child doesn't download any apps at all by going to the Restrictions menu and changing the 'Installing Apps' slider to off (from green to white). Within this menu, you can also turn off Safari, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes, iBookstore, Deleting Apps, Siri and Explicit Language for further control over your child's access to your iPad or iPhone's features.
How to turn off in-app purchases on iPhone, iPad
You can also turn in-app purchases off completely from this menu if you want to. You'll find the on/off slider towards the bottom of the restriction options.
Within the Restrictions menu, you can also prevent kids from downloading content from the iTunes Store that may be inappropriate, by tapping each different type of content (music, movies etc.) and choosing your preferred age rating.
How to turn on device passcodes on iPhone, iPad
It's not just within apps or on the iTunes App Store that kids can end up spending their parents' money without realising. In July, a 14-month-old girl accidentally purchased a car using the eBay app when she was playing with her dad's iPhone. In this case, to prevent a child from being able to access your iPhone or iPad at all, you'll want to set up a device passcodes.
To set up a passcode, go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock and tap 'Turn Passcode On.'
You can then choose your passcode. If you slide the 'Simple Passcode' slider to off, you'll be able to type a word rather than the default four-digit number to use as your passcode.
Create a new Apple ID
Having read all this advice, you might be thinking: "What about when I want to use my iPad?"
Apple recommends that, for children over 13, you should create an individual Apple ID for them to use. While this removes the nuisance of having to turn restrictions on and off every time you want to use it, you will need to switch from your Apple ID to your child's and vice versa. However, the benefit is that you can ensure that your child's Apple ID has no credit card on file, meaning there's no money for them to spend in the first place.
In order to switch between Apple IDs, you'll need to go to Settings > iTunes & App Stores and then tap on Apple ID to log out.
Give kids iTunes Gift Cards or iTunes Monthly Gift allowances
If you want to give your child a limited amount of money to spend on their own Apple ID, you can buy an iTunes Gift Card or Certificate from the iTunes Store for them to use.
Further still, you can set up an iTunes Monthly Gift to give your child a set amount of money to spend in the iTunes Store each month. The iTunes Monthly Gift can range from £5.00 to £30.00 in value, and can be cancelled at any time.
Of course, the other option is to keep your iPad or iPhone out of their reach completely.
There have been some extreme cases in the UK that saw parents refunded by Apple after their kids downloaded expensive apps and in-app purchases, too. Last year, a parent was refunded £4,000 after his eight-year-old daughter spent the money playing Campus Life, My Horse, Hay Day and Smurfs' Village on an iPad.
There's no guarantee that you'll be so lucky, though, so the best bet is to try and prevent it from happening in the first place, by following this advice.