It's normal to want to protect your children when they are using the internet, and that often includes wanting to limit their ability to make in-app purchases. In this guide, we'll look at how you can make sure your kid doesn't accidentally spend all their money on in-app extras.
What are in-app purchases?
When you think of spending money on apps, you might think of buying an app from the Google Play Store or the App Store on iPhones. However, a lot of apps let you spend real money within the app itself. This is the basis of an in-app purchase — something you buy inside an app, but there are many different options and every app will advertise its purchases differently.
Types of in-app purchases
There are a few things that are the same across all in-app purchases. For example, these purchases are made with real money, not any currency used within a game or app. In-app purchases are used to buy something within that specific app only, and cannot be transferred to other apps. They are online purchases with no physical cash involved. However, there are multiple different types of in-app purchases. The different types are:
- Auto-renewable subscriptions. A lot of apps, especially games, require subscriptions to play them. Subscriptions usually vary from around £2 to £15 per month. Auto-renewing subscriptions will automatically take this payment every month to keep the subscription active.
- Non-renewing subscriptions. You can also purchase subscriptions as a one-off payment. Depending on the app, you might be able to buy a subscription from a single month up to a year. Depending on the length and price of the subscription, this could range from £2 to £40+.
- Consumable. One of the most common in-app purchases is for consumable items such as in-app currency, extra health in a game, and more. A lot of game apps get most of their money by selling in-game currency because the games encourage people to always buy more. These are called consumable purchases because they get used up.
- Non-consumable. You can also buy specific features in games, for example, a 'pro' version of an app, or a new option such as a new car in a racing game.
How to explain in-app purchases to your child
It's a good idea to explain in-app purchasing to your kids. A lot of apps encourage people to make in-app purchases with adverts, so it's worth explaining what they will actually get if they make a purchase. You should also explain that in-app purchases use real money, just like buying something in a shop. A great example to use is by talking with your kid about their favourite game on their phone or tablet. You can open the game and find the store in that game and show them the in-app purchases they can make. If your kid likes playing Fortnite you can easily show them the different character designs and weapons that they can buy in the app, and you can explain that these are bought with real money.
How to turn off in app purchases on an iPhone and iPad
To turn off in-app purchases on an iPhone or iPad, follow these steps:
- Go to 'Settings'
- Select 'Screen Time' and enable it
- Select whether this is your device or your child's device
- Follow the on-screen prompts to set a passcode
- Select 'Content & Privacy Restrictions' and enable this
- Tap 'iTunes & App Store Purchases'
- Tap In-app Purchases and select 'Don't Allow'
How to turn off in-app purchases on Android:
You can't directly turn off in-app purchases on Android devices, but you can turn off purchases in the Play Store. This means you can check before your child downloads an app that offers additional purchases. If an app has in-app purchases, the description on the Play Store will say 'Offers in-app purchases'.
- Select the profile icon in the Google Play Store
- Select 'Settings'
- Find the 'Authentication' section
- Enable 'Require authentication for purchases'
- Select how often you'd like the app to request authentication
As well as turning off purchases, you can look at other parental control apps to help monitor and limit what your child can do on their phone or tablet.
How to set boundaries with your kids and in-app purchases
It can be really tempting to make in-app purchases, so it's important to set boundaries. You could talk to your kids and agree that they should talk to you before making in-app purchases, or you could agree on a limit for how much they can spend each week on in-app purchases. If you approve and can afford it, an in-app purchase every once in a while could be a nice treat. You should also encourage your child to be honest about how much they have spent on apps. Let them know that they can speak to you if they accidentally spend too much.
How to manage in app purchases instead of disabling them
Rather than disabling in-app purchases altogether, you could manage how much your children are allowed to spend. For example, you could set up a prepaid kids' debit card (or teen debit card) that your child or teen can use for in-app purchases. This means that they cannot spend more than the money on the card. You can also set up daily spending limits, or use other methods to monitor your kids' mobile phone usage.
This lets kids make in-app purchases under supervision. This can be more beneficial than shutting down purchases completely as it gives kids some control, and it gives you a great opportunity to talk to your kids about spending and finance.
Track your child's spending with instant notifications and set spending limits with GoHenry
The GoHenry prepaid debit card is a great way to help monitor what your child spends money on within apps. The parental controls in your GoHenry app let you track your child's spending with instant notifications. You can also put limits on how much your child can spend. Plus, your child can only spend money that's already loaded onto their GoHenry prepaid debit card, helping make sure that they don't accidentally spend too much.
Our in-app Money Missions also help teach your children about financial responsibility. These are fun bite-sized lessons and quizzes on a wide range of subjects including spending wisely, saving habits, money safety, and more — all of which can help your child make smart spending decisions when it comes to in-app purchases.