How to Prevent Your Kids from Making Unauthorized Charges on Apps

Are your children, nieces or nephews more tech-savvy than you? You’re not alone.

Many kids are becoming more tech savvy than their parents – and that means they’re able to use technology to make unauthorized charges.

Look around the next time you sit down at a family restaurant.  Take notice of how many kids are eating with their family while glued to their phone or tablet. Letting your child play a game while at the dinner table is a quick fix for a tired and possibly crabby child, but that also means you don’t see a lot of what they are being exposed to. The children might be using an app that tempts them into spending money – with or without their parent’s consent.

Here’s why it’s important to monitor mobile apps your child is using, in order to save your wallet.

#1: Not all Free Apps are Free

Eighty-four percent of mobile apps for children are free to download. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that many of these apps allow users to make purchases within the app. These purchases are not in the form of an advertisement. Instead, they are called an “in-app purchase,” also called “services in-app.” Some games, for example, allow you to upgrade for less than a dollar, or purchase an “item” that will give you an edge over your competitors within the game.

Put an end to this option before it creates a problem by following these steps, which applies to all iOS devices:

  • From the home screen, open your “Settings” app
  • Tap “General”
  • Scroll halfway down until you see “Restrictions”
  • At the top, select “Enable Restrictions”-you will then be asked to set a passcode by entering it twice. Do not share this code with your children
    • Some of you may have done this already and will automatically be prompted to enter your passcode
    • Scroll down to “Allowed Content” and slide “In-App Purchases” to “off.” In-app purchases will no longer be an option, unless you swipe it back to “On.”

#2: Ads, Ads & More Ads

Many free apps make their money by advertisements. These interactive, often flashy miniature ads are placed strategically so that you click on it, even by accident. In fact, fifty-eight percent of apps contain advertisements, and only nine percent have an app disclosure stating ads will be present. Also keep in mind that some of these advertisements double their efforts to collect more money from your child by promoting the in-app purchase options.

Minimize ads by limiting your child to only using specific, pre-approved games that you’ve reviewed. The password on your App Store should help with this, so long as your child doesn’t know your password.

#3: Social Media Link Options are Everywhere

Every article and photo has an option to share via social platforms or “Like” to tell all your friends. Twenty-two percent of mobile apps link to social media and only nine percent make you aware of that.

Once your child enters the social platform realm, they’re suddenly exposed to all sorts of add-ons, features, tools, and, perhaps the most concerning, the option to chat with a complete stranger about their new high score, for example. Chat rooms can be filled with thieves looking to get information from your kids in order to steal their identity. Pretty scary stuff!

Review apps for your child before letting them open it up. Check out the reviews in your App Store and online, read about the developer and read the description.  Keep in mind that simply looking at a screen shot of the app that’s displayed prior to its download, will not display that ads are shown. It also wouldn’t hurt to point out what your child should be careful not to click on, by going through the app with them.

Source: FTC

Kari Luckett writes about financial topics for Kari is the content strategist for