Hidden cost of ‘free’ iPhone gaming

February 28, 2011

Watchdog examines charges in “free” iPhone games


A US regulator Watchdog has taken up complaints that a free iphone app is encouraging children to run up huge bills for their parents. Tap Zero is targeted at children and although the app is free – players buy in-game currency by using a credit card and their iTunes account. Tap Zoo has quickly risen to earn second place on Apple’s top grossing app chart.

The problem seems to be that children think they are playing a free game with virtual coins to win virtual prizes whereas the cost is real to the parents who pay the purchases and losses built into the app. The Federal Trade Commission is taking this matter very seriously as they believe that young children are unlikely to understand the financial ramifications of their purchases. The FTC  are seriously querying the app indusrty with respect to the marketing of these applications.

Advantages of Mobile Phones for Children

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 75% of children aged 12-17 had a mobile phone and the same study concluded that over half of 12 year olds had their very own phone ( these statistics were most applicable to the United States). Currently, many European countries (e.g.  Finland) report that on average children have mobile phones by age 8!

Giving mobile phones to children can  have a number of advantages which counteracts the problem discussed above. Parents argue that when their child has a mobile it makes it easier for them to track where their children are. Mobile phones can offer a sense of security to parents and children.  Additionally, parents also believe that giving a mobile phone to children is a good way of teaching them to become more responsible. Children given expensive smartphones  such as iPhone must learn to be more vigilant  not to lose their mobiles as well as to stick to usage limitations set by their parents.

IPhones allow children to access not only the Internet, but also a host of “apps”. Many apps are harmless or even helpful, but there will always be some that present inappropriate content or initiate dangerous contact. Parental control should be initiated by parents to protect their children – iPhones and the iPod Touch- are both equipped with a parental control function (go to “Settings” – “General” – “Restrictions”). By setting a 4-digit passcode, you can enable and disable access to the camera, the app store, the iTunes store, YouTube, and the Internet (there are also third-party apps available to allow restricted web access – see below).

Service providers offer a variety of plans regarding web usage and text message limitations, often referred to as “data plans” or “data packages”.  Parents should openly discuss and determine the amount of usage they consider appropriate for their child.   Children are more tech-savvy than ever and can utilise this knowledge to their advantage.  By being concerned and remaining alert parents can reduce the risk of their child abusing the privilege of having a mobile phone.

Parents can generally curtail pricey mobile phone bills incurred by their children if they use a service from AT&T Wireless; this allows parents to set limits on their children’s cell phone usage, including voice, texting, and web browsing. AT&T’s is a web-based interface that lets parents control detailed aspects of their children’s mobile phone plans and is compatible with Apple’s iPhone. You must pay a monthly fee for this service (approximately £3 per month). The Smart Limits for Wireless system is part of a larger Smart Limits initiative that AT&T is deploying on all of its services, including landlines and broadband Internet.

Mobicip Safe Browser Setup

Mobicip™ offers an alternate browser for Safari that enables parental controls on your child’s iPhone or iPod Touch. It is simple to setup and works anytime anywhere! The Mobicip Safe Browser is protected by a mobicip.com account setup by the parent.

Make sure you purchase the app from the iTunes account that will be synced with the device. Your child may have a separate iTunes account to which the device is synced. Please purchase through that account instead of yours. If you have already purchased the app from your account, call iTunes Customer Support and they can cancel and refund.

Select App Store icon

  • To get further information go to itunes store
  • Read our forthcoming article on best apps for children


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