5-Year-Old Brit Spends $2.5K In 10 Minutes
March 6, 2013

5-Year-Old Brit Spends $2.5K In 10 Minutes

I’ll be honest with you: My wife and I do not have any children and have no plans to bring life into this world. Yet, having once been a child myself, (and having a fair bit of common knowledge about tykes in general) I feel I can confidently say this: Kids are kids, and as such should not be expected to act as adults. That’s a much nicer way of saying what I really wanted to say, which was: “Your children shouldn’t know more about your iPad than you do.”

This weekend, one 5-year-old Brit managed to spend some £1,710 (or $2,570 for you Americans out there) in just ten minutes. He says he’s sorry and even spent some time crying about it, but it’s hard to see this as anything less than showing off.

$2.5k in ten minutes? If that’s not issuing a challenge to other 5-year-olds, I don’t know what is.

The parents, Greg and Sharon Kitchen of Warmley, let the boy entertain himself with an iPad last week whilst they entertained guests in their home. When he asked to download a free game — Zombies v Ninja — Father Kitchen plugged in the password and set the boy free to play away. Then, like most free games, Zombies v Ninjas began hitting the boy up for cash in exchange for some virtual weaponry. One phone call from the credit card company and 19 emails from iTunes later, Sharon Kitchens had realized that her son had just become the Zombies v Ninjas app developer’s favorite person in the world.

“We had lots of visitors in the house and were both a little preoccupied. I woke up Monday morning and looked at my emails and had loads from iTunes,” explained Mrs. Kitchen in an interview with The Telegraph. “I realized what happened and told Danny he’d better get ready for bed and run and hide before daddy got home.”

Boy Kitchen apparently has an expensive taste in digital weaponry. According to the Telegraph, the boy bought twelve “333 Keys,” five lots of “9000 darts” and seven “333 ecstasy bombs” at $105 a pop. He also bought five bunches of “4200 darts” at $8 each and some additional ecstasy bombs for about $5 apiece. The Kitchen family quickly contacted Apple to tell them that their kid was responsible for wracking up such a high bill. Luckily for the Kitchen family, Apple’s been in the press lately for this sort of thing, so they were willing to refund these charges.

It was just last week that Apple suggested handing out iTunes gift cards and cash as a way to settle a pending class action lawsuit being lobbed against them by angry parents who had been robbed by their adorable and innocent children.

Here’s the rub: any app or game downloaded from Apple’s App Store (even free apps and games) requires a password. Once this password is given, the App Store is wide open by default for ten minutes. Apple likely implemented this system in hopes that users would spend at least ten minutes buying and downloading content to their iPads and iPhones. Typing in that password every single time makes the process more difficult and could, after all, discourage customers from downloading with abandon.

Some parents began to complain that their children were able to take advantage of this ten minute grace window and rack up similar purchases, so Apple made it even easier for parents to child proof their devices, giving them the option of requiring a password every time. Despite this, a group of American parents were still able to file for a class action against Apple.

I’ll say it again: kids should not be expected to act as adults. At the risk of being That Childless Guy Who Doles Out Parenting Advice (ok, I’m totally being that guy), I’ll say that parenting is a delicate balance of letting children learn on their own while making sure they don’t make the wrong decision. There are few parents who let their kids cross the street without supervision, and even fewer who say, “Here’s my credit card; Go buy some dinner.”

Have we learned nothing from the timeless tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk?” A kid, when entrusted with money, is likely to be duped into buying magic beans by any common roadside swindler.

Let there be no mistake: an iPad which is not protected with Apple’s built-in parental controls is the same as giving your kid direct access to your bank account and sending them down the road, free to purchase what they will. App developers which use the In-App purchase model have become the roadside swindlers, luring kids in with the promise of a free game, then showing them all the really cool stuff they can do if they only hand over a few bucks.

And honestly, what adult developer can sleep soundly at night knowing that they’ve created a game with even the option for a child to drop $150 on a single item? This is the real crook in this story, not the 5-year-old Kitchen boy.

Apple has these parental controls available for a reason, and they’re incredibly available and easy to implement. Parents can either restrict all in-app purchases (your safest bet to avoid this scenario) or require a password for any purchase anywhere on the device.

Suffice it to say, if your kids make a plaything out of your iPad, you should not only have these controls on place, you should also never give your password to your children. An Apple spokesperson told the Telegraph that if parents do find themselves in a Kitchen-type situation, they should contact Apple immediately if they hope to have any of their money refunded.

As for the 5-year old Boy Wonder, he summed up his situation thusly: “It was a good game, but I will never do anything like this again. I’m banned from the iPad now, but I am still going to play games when I can, but I will be careful now.”

I have to imagine that, when off the record, the 5-year old also said, “I double-dog-dare anyone else to spend more than I did.”

Image Credit: Photos.com

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