Dangers of the App Stores for Children & Your Wallet

There are endless possibilities of fun for your child when you give them a smartphone or tablet. Google Play and the App Store have thousands (if not millions) of apps for learning, reading, playing, and surfing the internet. Kids can spend the entire day on their tablets – if you let them, but you should not.

Google Play Logo
It used to be that most of the apps were free, or else very cheap. 99 cents for an app didn’t cause the end of the world when the credit card statement came in the mail. Today though, things are a bit different.

 

While many apps are still free to download and begin using, app developers and app stores have figured out other ways to make money off the apps. Here are a couple of ways they make money:

 

      • In App Purchases- While the initial download is free, only parts of the app work. To access other and more functional features of the app the user must make purchases. Specifically with childrens’ apps you’ll see this for downloading additional interactive ebooks, coloring pages, and game enhancements.

 

  • In App Ads- Those free apps that seem great are now being bombarded with ads. These ads pop up and bring the user to websites, other apps for purchase, or somewhere else on the internet. Some apps still have the ads on the bottom or top of the screen, but many have taken to the new pop up that is very invasive and difficult for children to navigate past (especially those that pop with no warning, during play for example).

Apps from App Store
These two options give developers some return on their investment of writing the apps. For the most part one should not mind the In App Purchases, as long as there is something to do with the app prior to making a purchase. We.re not against paying for an app, but one should only pay for something you are going to use, and usually there is no return policy for app buying.

 

We do see two problems with these options though. For instance with the In App Purchases, not every app makes parents input their password, and it is increasingly easy for kids to make purchases. Now that apps are no longer 99 cents, that credit card bill can go up very quickly.

 

The In App Ads on the other hand, we do have an issue. Many are difficult for kids to get past, which make them worthless for download. We feel like they should have some kind of warning saying “This app is annoying, just purchase it instead”. On top of that they often have inappropriate ads in simple apps like Chess, Sudoku and Solitaire sending younger children to sexy ads.

 

For the average user, these ads are fine but for a child they are not. I feel like there should be some kind of rating system for the apps to let you know ahead of time if they are safe for children to use.

 

Our Recommendation to Parents

Parents simply do not have the time to oversee every app their child uses at all times, especially in large homes. But they do have the opportunity, and the responsibility to talk to their children. We would advise parents to explain the ads and have their children let them know what problems they have with an app. If there is a problem, download an alternative.

 

Talking to your children about app downloads is important, too. We would suggest having them ask you about every purchase and not giving them the freedom to download even free apps without asking. This puts them in the habit of asking for all apps.

 

How About You? How have you dealt with app purchases, ads, pop ups and in app purchases? What suggestions do you have for other parents?

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