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How to Manage In-App Purchase?

How to Manage In-App Purchase? post image

While looking at the App store Top Grossing list, I was quite surprised to see Dragon Vale was at the top as #1.  I was surprised because Dragon Vale is a free app.  In fact the top 5 grossing apps are all free apps.  How can they make money?  Obviously, these free apps get money through In-App Purchase.  This sends a strong message to all app buyers, especially all the parents: free apps are NOT free, be aware of the In-App Purchases.

I had a post about In-App Purchase a while ago.  Now I updated the content and re-post it here.

In-app purchase is also called freemium.  Quite few free apps are free to download, but they offer incentives within the app to buy things that cost REAL money. Things you can buy: furniture for the house, outfit for your favorite character, skip a level to move up, … Use Dragon Vale as an example.  The app’s top in-app purchases are: Pile of Gems – $1.99; Sack of Gems – $4.99; Bag of Gems – $9.99; Pile of Food – $o.99; Pile of Cash – $0.99.  Some other popular kids apps that have In-App Purchase: Smurfs’ Village, Tap Zoo, Tap Pet Hotel, Tiny Zoo Friends.  These are not bad apps.  However, as parents, we have to learn how to manage the In-App Purchase to stay within our budget.  I don’t know how many times I have heard the stories of surprising bills from the app store.

There are several approaches to manage the in-app purchase, depending on your child’s maturity level:

1. For kids have no money management concept/skills, you want to disable the In-App Purchase completely.

On you iPhone or iPAD, go to “Settings”, then tap on “General”, then “Restrictions”.  You want to turn “Restrictions” on.  The password is the same as the one you use to log in to your device. If you don’t want your child change the settings, it is a good idea to hide your password away from your child.  Once you are in “Restrictions”, scroll down to find “Allowed Content” (shown below).  You want to turn “In-App Purchase” off.  You also want to change “Require Password” to “Immediately”.  The default is “15 minutes”, which means, after you enter a password for a purchase, the kids get a 15-minute time window to download/purchase things without a password.  It happened in our family, it could also happen to you.

After all these, all you have to remember is to never put in a password in front of your kids.  Kids have keen memories, much better than we know them.

2. For kids who can take some responsibilities in managing money, but still need supervision, you can set a budget limit for them to use.

You can give them the password, so they feel trusted.  You want to talk about the difference between Game money and Real money.   Instead of linking a credit card to your App Store account, use a gift card.  Make sure your child knows his budget limit.

Like I said earlier, apps with In-App Purchase are not necessarily bad apps.  All we have to do is to find ways to manage the budget.

How do you manage In-App Purchase?  What worked?  What did not work?  Please leave a comment.

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Patricia

    Thanks for this info, much appreciated.
    However, in Settings, General, Restrictions, Allowed Content, I do not have the In-Apps Purchases option. Also, Require Password (just like every other option within this screen) is grayed out so I can not make any changes to it 🙁
    Do you know how to rectify this problem ? I have an iPad version 7.0.4 (!?)
    Thank you in advance.

    • Did you tab on “enable Restrictions” at the top of the screen?

  • Lindley

    I loved what you write here.

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  • DragonVale Hack

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  • What’s up, just wanted to mention, I liked this article. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

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  • ateachertellsthetruth

    Thanks for this help. My two year old has been buying all kinds of things through “free” apps lately. Your site is wonderful! But I have a hard time going through your download function and I usually get apps for the kids directly on my phone. Sorry.

    • Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. It is easier if you read the review posts on your iDevice. You can then just download from your device. Have you considered to sign up for free email updates? Then all the links will be in your email, and it is a lot easier handle. It is hard to do it on the computer, unless you manage all iTune downloads on your computer. Actually, when you have a lot apps and music downloads, it is easier to manage everything in iTune store. But everyone’s situation is different. The link be there is also to help people find the right app. Many times it is hard to find the right app when you search by app name. In that case, the link can save you some time.

  • Great tip! We have been quite frustrated with these tricky games. In some games, kids earn “money” to acquire more items. Therefore, it is difficult for them to differentiate when they come across a game that with the same click of a button charges real money to acquire items. We have cautioned our kids to be careful, but your tip will make it easier on all of us.

    On a separate note, I have just started homeschooling and am excited about all the info here. Thank you!

    • I wish Apple has a sheet like this print out in their package. It will make all the parents’ life a little easier. 🙂 Apps are great tools in education. Hope you find some apps you like and can be used for homeschooling.

  • A great post the so called free apps annoy me and i generally avoid them. A friend of mine got stung with smurfs when her kids racked up $500 in a week, she deleted that app quick smart.

    • iGameMom

      Hope things like this will not happen again!

  • Hi, thanks for the tips. I’ve just know about how to restrict in-app purchase 😀

    • iGameMom

      Hope it will save you some $ 😉

  • My daughter is still way too young to even know what an app is… But I know she’ll be there quicker than I think! I grew up with computer games, and still love them even though I never get to play anymore. But when I got my iPad and tried some games I have to say that I was a bit shocked at how expensive they make those in-game purchases. I mean, $0,99 for a pearl? $4,99 for an extra life? Are you KIDDING me?!?!
    Besides all of that, what fun is a game where you can just buy you’re way to the next levels? No doubt this is a good business model, especially where kids with no concept of money are involved. But it makes me cringe to think about what kind of message that sends our youth. “If you’re tired of waiting for your fish to grow up, just pay a little something, and you can have instant gratification!”. Not to mention that the people at the top of the charts probably are just those who spend more money, rather than those who put in lots of time and effort. “if you have money, you don’t have to work hard!”.


    • iGameMom

      I like your thoughts here!

  • Thank you for visiting my site. I have enjoyed reading your posts and wish you continued success.

    • iGameMom

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note. Hope to see you more.

  • Thanks for these tips. We fixed both our ipods last night because our son loves to play on them. I had heard of freemiums but never knew that they could bill you for them! Thanks for the great info. I passed it on to my FB friends!

    • iGameMom

      Freemium is getting more and more popular now, especially on kids games. We have to be really careful and help our kids understand the system of app money making…

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