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How to prevent your child from making in-app purchases

If you are a parent who has just surrendered to your child’s incessant whining for a smartphone, you may be wrestling with how to adequately teach your child to be responsible with their device. With the App Store/Play Store becoming highly saturated with an ever-expanding eye-popping variety of game apps for kids, unsolicited in-app purchases by your little ones may be one of your primary concerns.

The good news is, there are several easy parenting hacks you can use to avoid the thorny consequences of your child’s smartphone antics.

Hack 1: Adjust your ‘Screen time’ settings

For phones running on iOS:

  1. Turn on ‘Screen time’ in your settings and follow your phone’s prompts to select either ‘This is my device’ or ‘This is my child’s device.’ (If ‘Screen time’ is already turned on, start with step 3.)
  2. If your child is using your device, select ‘Screen time passcode’ and set up a passcode. To set this up on your child’s device, follow the prompts to set up a ‘Parent passcode’
  3. Select ‘Content & Privacy Restrictions’ and turn it on. Next, select ‘iTunes & App Store Purchases’ and set ‘In-app Purchases’ to ‘Don’t allow.’

For phones running on andriod:

  1. Go to ‘User controls’ in your settings
  2. Set up a PIN in ‘Set or change PIN’
  3. Go back to User Settings and toggle ‘Use PIN for purchases


Hack 2: There’s an app for that

For controls that extend beyond preventing your child from making in-app purchases, a parental control app is a fool-proof means of this. For example, the planoApp’s* “Block Apps” and “Block Browser” features effectively help restrict your impressionable little one from having access to certain apps and online pages.

Rest assured, these features act as the much-needed extra set of eyes that flip the problem-source into the solution!

*Subject to your device’s technical capabilities


Hack 3: Understand and educate

When it comes to raising children who are growing up on an electronic diet, policing is never the answer. Rather, communication is key especially with regards to setting boundaries and restrictions, especially with regards to your little one’s smartphone behavior.

As parents, it is important we understand the psychology of such games in order to adequately and effectively help your child internalize why they should not purchase that power up or weapon. A lot of these games allow players to be stimulated just enough to get them hooked, before they hit them with the ‘pay to continue.’ Even adults aren’t immune to this form of entrapment, so imagine the compulsion children feel when they use such apps!

Understanding the science behind game formats will help you in having open conversations with your kids about their in-app behavior and can help in the formulation of good device habits moving forward.


At the end of the day, the mystery credit card bills and the frustration that follows it after you realise your own little one is at the root of your burgeoning electronic receipts is never worth it. Fortunately, you have the power to prevent your child from making exorbitant in-app purchases and instilling in them responsible device habits that will last them a lifetime!

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