April 20, 2011 at 11:12 AM ET
There's been plenty of talk about how children are managing to spend hundreds of dollars on virtual items in iPhone apps without their parents' consent or knowledge, but a six-year-old girl's Android-based shopping spree reminds us that incidents like that can happen on any mobile platform.
The Next Web reports that an Android user going by the name "Heidi" recently sought advice regarding in-app purchases on the Talk Android forum. She explained that her six-year-old daughter managed to charge $149.99 to her credit card while playing an Android game called Restaurant Story and wanted to know if there was a way to get that money refunded:
It appears child was able to click on the “Buy” button within the app, initiating the Android Market payment process. From there, all that needed to be done was to accept the Terms and Conditions, charging the in-app purchase immediately to the mother’s credit card.
Unlike Apple's in-app purchase system, Android's did not appear to require any password to be entered in this particular instance and Heidi's daughter was able to purchase gems — virtual in-game currency for Restaurant Story — without any trouble.
Odds are that the child didn't really understand that gaining virtual currency would mean that her mother's wallet would suffer. And while it is a parent's responsibility to make sure a child understands that concept, we do feel that it's an app maker's responsibility to include some sort of simple childproofing feature for in-app purchases.
Hopefully Android will follow in the footsteps of iOS and include tighter parental controls in future software updates.