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How to Avoid Unauthorised In-App Purchases

We’ve all heard about it happening in the media and sadly some of us parents are all too familiar with it happening to us – no sooner have you let your child use your iPad or other ‘connected’ device than you find they have managed to clock up a big bill purchasing apps or with in-app purchasing.

How to Avoid Unauthorised In-App Purchases on iPhones and iPads

Firstly, we strongly recommend that you use a passcode on your device, sure you just want to ‘slide to unlock’ without entering a passcode, but it is better to protect your device and all its data behind a passcode. Those of you who already use a passcode, fantastic!  You can go ahead and skip the following section and pick up from, ‘Preventing unauthorised in-app purchases.’ 


 Ok, so lets get a passcode / Bio-metric login ready:

  • From the home screen choose the ‘Settings’ icon
  • Navigate down to ‘Passcode’ – on an iPad it’s one of the options in the left hand menu (see images below). Here you’ll have the option of choosing a 4 digit Passcode or something that is longer and text-based, whichever one you select, you will be required to type it in twice for confirmation.
  • Et Voila, every time you need to unlock your phone, you will be required to enter this code, so ensure it is something memorable! There is also the option to delete all your data if the passcode incorrectly entered 10 times. But, we would advise you to think carefully before doing so.
  • Once you’ve set up a passcode do make sure you don’t let your child see you enter it even young children watch and learn quickly – it’s a lot less of a barrier if they know what it is!

Setting up Restrictions on iPhones, iPads and iPods

Next and most importantly if you have an Apple device, we strongly recommend you set up restrictions.

  • Enter ‘Settings’ and navigate to ‘General’.
  • Within the ‘General’ section you will find many options, but the most important one is ‘Restrictions’.
  • When you first enter ‘Restrictions’ you will need to select ‘Enable Restrictions’ and to choose a passcode (this can be the same as the device passcode or different).
  • You will then see lists of options under the categories ‘Allow’, ‘Allowed Content’, ‘Privacy’, ‘Allow changes’ and ‘Game Center’. Within the ‘Allow’ section at the top each item has a slider – if it is allowed then it will be green with the slider to the right, slide it left to turn it off.  To prevent unauthorised in-app purchases, we suggest you slide the ‘Installing Apps’, ‘Deleting Apps‘ and ‘In-App Purchases’ toggle to the left so it lights up white, NOT green.
  • Within the section  ‘Allowed Content’ we also suggest you change the ‘Require Password’ option to immediately. This means whenever you are prompted with the option to download a paid app etc. You will be required to enter your iTunes password immediately. Otherwise if you enter the password once, for the next 15 minutes anything else can be purchased without needing a password – very dangerous!
  • It’s worth having a look at the other restrictions available which may also help in other areas. For example, in the ‘Privacy’ section you can prevent someone from changing your calendar, contacts, twitter account etc.
  • Don’t forget once you’ve done this that these settings when active will also prevent you from doing these things. In fact you won’t even see the App Store icon. When you find you can’t do what you need to go into the ‘Settings’ -> ‘General’ -> ‘Restrictions’ area again, enter your passcode and change the sliders back to green (sliding to the right) or change whatever other settings you need. We suggest that you don’t choose ‘Disable Restrictions’ at the top as if you do it forgets all the settings you have put in place. It’s normally quicker to just change the ones you need. But don’t forget to come back afterwards and put the restrictions back in place.

In addition, there are apps available that offer more comprehensive parental controls on Apple devices and for further protection, particularly for young children, we recommend considering locking a child into one app at a time using Guided Access mode (see more details here) which prevents them from exiting the app you chose.

Avoiding Unauthorised In-App Purchases on Android Devices

It seems that Parents like yourself, or even those of you who are curious on this matter, may not have been aware that after entering your password once to purchase an app from Google Play, you were in fact enabling a 30 minute window to allow downloads without a password.

Since then, Google has confirmed that it will be contacting all qualifying users who are eligible to appeal for a refund due to unauthorised in-app purchases being made.

But, if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to have been contacted, there is certainly no harm in trying to contact Google directly. Otherwise, Google have since allowed you to change your set preferences so that you will require a password to be entered before any purchase is made through Google Play or within any app.

If you have an Android device (phone or tablet) that is regularly used by a child we suggest you consider downloading one of the various parental control apps to give you most comprehensive restrictions. Many tablets aimed at children (such as the Amazon Fire HD) come with various parental controls built-in – in fact Android devices have typically offered better parental controls than Apple devices to date.

These tools can allow you to give each child their own profile on the device where you can specify what that child can access (in terms of apps, internet access etc) and some even allow you to set time limits on how long or what times of day they can use the device.

I hope that this guide helps you to set up restrictions on your phones, and tablets with no hassle and more importantly, save you lots of money in the long-run! Feel free to throw us a tweet, email or some cake (we LOVE cake!) should you have any queries about In-App purchases or anything related to Child Development through Play, Toys, Apps, Games and Technology!

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