Is it lazy parenting, or do iPhone games exploit children?

10 February 2011

Do you know where your child is? On your iPhone, you say? Well that's alright, then. What could possibly go wrong? What's that, you don't bother checking what they're up to? Not to worry - it's not as if they know your iTunes password and can run up the best part of a grand in buying shoes for Smurfs, is it? Oh.

iPhones and iPads are pretty good for kids and parents alike - big and bright and touch sensitive, plenty of apps to keep them quiet, a 21st century pacifier. So are development firms that realise this and exploit the fact simply making a living or profiteering douchebags?

The Washington Post reports that 8-year-old Madison was playing Smurf's Village, a free download from Capcom. Unfortunately, the virtual items that can be purchased for the Smurfs are a little beyond the pocket money of most pre-teen kids. Madison's older sister knew the password to the family's iTunes account, and days later their mother received a bill for around £900.

Bitterwallet - Smurfs iphone

Who's in the wrong? It depend how kind or cruel you want to be. The iPhone has safety features to prevent in-app purchases and the App Store is password protected, and parents shouldn't be leaving kids alone unsupervised. When the app is first downloaded, there's a big notification box explaining that buying virtual items costs real money, and the same warning is at the top of the game's description in the iTunes Store.

The other side of the argument is simply this; why the bleeding hell is a game aimed at kids offering to sell them 2,000 smurfberries for £59.99? The cost of items in the game is completely disproportionate to the audience the app targets. And as Madison's mother's points out, the game is sold as suitable for children aged 4+.

Smurfs, those little blue bastards. Always causing trouble.

[Washington Post]

TOPICS:   Mobile   Gadgets

13 comments

  • PlatPlat
    By giving out your passwords, you take responsibility for the activities that takes place using them. Simple.
  • PokeHerPete
    I avoid any app with consumables that you have to purchase. Thieving cunts.
  • nonimaus
    I question the logic of Apple when they'll quite happily reject apps left right and centre for failing to meet their bizarre moral code, but then allow an app like this in which it's possible to spend up to £59.99 in one go on smurfberries. Full, immersive console games with huge amounts of development costs on game play and graphics cost this much, so why is this company allowed to get away with charging that much for a virtual, made up fruit that doesn't exactly seem to drastically alter the game in the way that you'd think that kind of spend would do? Fair enough, they're a business and they've got to make money, but the most you should be paying for that kind of in-app purchase should be £5.99, anything greater is just insane.
  • Andrew k.
    By giving out your passwords, you take responsibility for the activities that takes place using them. Simple. Thats not quite true, I regularly find that once you have entered your password, there is a period of time (maybe 4 minutes) where you can download again and again without entering the password again. My sons have not yet worked this out, but it would easily allow further paid downloads after I hand back their ipods. This could easily happen - I download a free game for my son, enter my password and hand it back, he then selects a paid game and downloads it without me knowing. It can be done easily, so take care even with free games.
  • donttouchthehair
    "The cost of items in the game is completely disproportionate to the audience the app targets. And as Madison’s mother’s points out, the game is sold as suitable for children aged 4+." The game is for 4+, but the iPhone itself and its reliance on payment details is surely aimed at someone older who is supposed to have the ability to look after their own shit.
  • piggy
    I've got some dangle berries for sale, if anyone's interested?
  • Gadget4free
    £59.99 for Smurfberries?! They were only £3.99 in M&S the other day!!
  • Mark H.
    'After a password is inserted, Apple allows a 15-minute window for purchases and downloads without having to reenter the password. ' Not good...
  • Bazinga
    Get your kids one of those pre-paid debit cards for their own iTunes accounts.
  • Paul C.
    Shit parenting, really. A bit like that woman who's sprog had her card details and spunked £950 on Xbox Live. Don't give your kids these devices. Commodore 64 and a BT phonecard. Problem solved.
  • M4RKM
    Settings -> General -> Restrictions -> ON In App Purchases - OFF. I realise that most people don't RTFM when they buy an iPhone, but it's not as if that's fucking rocket science
  • Marc
    It's a great game though lol. I would suggest keeping your iTunes account prepay only and not giving them your card details.
  • brian
    @M4RKM: Wise words, listen to him and all shall be right with the world. Seriously, if you don't switch off in app purchases in the settings menu before handing the phone to your kids then you deserve to see £59.99 taken out of your account for an imaginary hay wagon. In app purchases are worse than facebook/google's stance on privacy. It's just evil.

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