Parents Need to Learn and Apple Needs to Teach

The Belfast Telegraph reports another case of a child racking up nearly £1,000 in in-app purchases:

Theo Rowland-Fry, eight, spent almost £1,000 downloading extra software to help him play a Simpsons game on the Apple tablet. […]

“Theo is only just eight and has no real concept of the monetary value attached,” he told The Post. “As far as he was concerned he was just buying doughnuts.

There’s an argument for and against this being the fault of the child, the parent or Apple.

On the one hand, if you’re letting your child use an iPad for gaming then it’s your responsibility as a parent to understand how the device works and what parental controls are available. Unfortunately, as is the case with games consoles, this is sorely overlooked. For example, Xbox Live is notoriously full of kids that are most definitely under 18 playing games such as Call of Duty or Halo. I’ve seen it first hand where some parents assume that the age rating on the box somehow doesn’t apply to their child but they’ll be outraged if someone utters a curse word accidentally before the watershed.

But on the other hand, parental controls are often overlooked because they’re never really well advertised. Ask most people if iOS has parental controls and they’ll probably not know anything about them. It even took me a few minutes to find them as they’re under “Restrictions”.

There’s very little information on Apple.com, save a support article. If Apple doesn’t want these IAP problems to continue then they really need to push the features that iOS has that will help parents.

Whilst it’s easy to quickly blame the parents for not understanding the technology (I hastily took to Twitter to make my initial opinion known), Apple does need to improve the exposure of the great features they already have for parents.