Kids' Gaming Adds Up For U.K. Parents - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Government // Enterprise Architecture
12:13 PM

Kids' Gaming Adds Up For U.K. Parents

Survey shows many British households face unexpectedly high bills from children's unauthorized gaming purchases.

Last summer I downloaded a new iPad game for my 7-year-old daughter on holiday. As she seemed to be enjoying it so much, we allowed her to make 'in-game' purchases of fun things like new items of clothing for the characters.

The good feelings turned a bit sour when the iTunes bill for those few days of gaming came in: more than £100 ($155).

Seems our family's experience isn't unique. A rather disturbing new survey from the British arm of Microsoft suggests parents whose youngsters make purchases on iTunes without permission can end up with average monthly bills as high as £34.18 ($53.00). And according to Microsoft, the total monthly cost of unauthorized apps and in-app purchases is more like £30.9 million ($48 million).

What's going on here? Many children's Web or tablet/smartphone app-based games are free or cost as little as £0.69 ($1.07). Most then offer players the opportunity to upgrade their free accounts through paid membership, providing access to parts of the game not available to non-paying players. Other games encourage in-game purchases to speed up gameplay or to access extra features.

[ Are apprenticeships the solution to the IT talent gap? Read U.K. Eyes Apprenticeships To Grow IT Talent. ]

The phenomenon has been gaining more and more attention in the U.K. In one recent high-profile case, a child managed to run up a £980 ($1,521) bill on one such iPad game. The government has since tasked the Office of Fair Trading to investigate whether game developers are breaking any rules by using these purchase practices.

According to Microsoft, 28% -- nearly one in three -- of 2,000 Brit parents surveyed reported that their kids had made app and in-app purchases without their permission. Of that 28%, a full 83% said they'd suffered from "bill shock" as a result, noticing a big increase in their monthly payments due to their children's gaming behavior.

Clearly kids find these online transactions all too easy. In fact, 17% of respondents admitted they share their smartphone and tablet passwords with their children, and 23.5% don't use passwords at all. Perhaps not surprisingly, 77% think families need more help from technology companies to manage their children's activities with apps.

"It's important parents can trust in the technology they use and feel as safe as possible when handing over their smartphone and tablet devices to their children," said Brett Siddons, Microsoft head of consumer marketing for Windows Phone UK.

As for me, I changed my password. I still let my daughter make in-game purchases -- but only with permission, and certainly not every time she plays. Will it take a change in the law to address the problem on a national scale?

Think backups are boring? Not according to our more than 500 respondents. Most, 60%, use two, three or even more different backup applications, and the percentage encrypting all media has jumped 15 points since 2011. Get the 2013 Backup Technologies Survey report today. (Free registration required.)

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

Pandemic Responses Make Room for More Data Opportunities
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/4/2021
10 Things Your Artificial Intelligence Initiative Needs to Succeed
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/20/2021
Transformation, Disruption, and Gender Diversity in Tech
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/6/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Flash Poll