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