The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a freemium title from EA that puts gamers in the role of Springfield city builder. While the game is free-to-play, impatient fans can use real money to buy virtual donuts to help speed up processes. It seems that eight-year old Theo Rowland-Fry was one of these testy tappers, spending nearly a thousand pounds on in-game goods.
British parents Nick and Lisa Rowland-Fry bought Theo and his sister Evie an iPad to help out with their schoolwork, but admit "We just don't have time to monitor what they are playing".
Turning a blind eye to the children's gaming habits has cost the Bristol couple plenty - and they are furious that Apple didn't prevent the bill.
We received no emails alerting us to what was happening. If you buy something on Amazon you have to agree to pay for it, enter additional information to pay and then get a confirmation email so you can keep track. With the iPad it seems to be a free-for-all.
I appreciate children are their target audience but it is not right and there needs to be specific controls in place to stop this from happening.
In a show of good faith, Apple has agreed to refund the £980 bill. That's despite the fact the hardware does have parental control settings, including the ability to turn off in-app purchases.
An Apple spokesperson has explained that these incidents are looked at on a case-by-case basis, and should be reported as soon as possible.
While not acknowledging his own oversight, Nick Rowland-Fry urges parents to be more vigilant:
I dread to think how many people this has happened to and how many it has happened to and they don't even know about it because perhaps it was £50 and they didn't realise.
Apple suggests that families familiarise themselves with the Parents' Guide to iTunes (requires iTunes software), which touches on topics such as not sharing your passwords with the kids, using iTunes gift cards or certificates instead of credit cards, and enabling Parental Controls or Restrictions.
I like video games and music and cups of tea and noodles and beagles and colour-cycling LEDs.
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Jimmy the Geek