I hate — emphasis on hate — games that use In-App Purchases (IAPs) especially games targeted at small children.  It’s been a vicious sneaky way for app developers to make some big money before parents wise up to what is going on while an innocent child doesn’t fully understand what they are doing to mom or dad’s credit card.

The latest story dealing with this sick tactic comes from The Guardian, “Parents told to beware children running up huge bills on iPad and iPhone game apps.” I’m sure it won’t be the last either.  With rapid adoption of tablet computers – many predict tablets will outsell laptops in 2013, this issue will grow.  It is far easier to give your toddler or young child a tablet to play on than say your home computer or laptop.  Tablets are light and easy for kids to understand using simple touchscreen motions. For instance, my two boys understood my iPhone at age 2, a similar type of interface as my iPad.

So what should you do as a parent?

Here is my approach:

  1. Try to avoid any game that is designed around In-App Purchases (IAPs.)  There are many great games that don’t use this tactic and I deplore it as a parent when buying a game for my child. So try to avoid games that use this.
  2. Change your iPad (or similar device) settings to not allow in-game purchases.  Here is a screenshot of that setting from my iPad 2. It is in your Settings application.  Go to General –> Restrictions –> (Enter your Restrictions Passcode) –> In-App Purchases setting and turn it to “OFF”

Do #2 regardless. This will block any in-app purchases without a password.

And please don’t get me started on all the manipulation from Disney’s Club Penguin. Genius game design though as a parent I find it repulsive.

Here are the screenshots for changing your In-App Purchases setting to off on an Apple iPad:

Step 1: Go to the Settings application and find the General setting

Step 2: Click on the Restrictions setting:

Step 3: You should be prompted by a password request. If not, please set a 4-digit passcode:

Step 4: Set the In-App Purchases setting to OFF: