Kids playing games on a phone or iPad might seem like a harmless thing and an easy way to mollify them or keep them busy, but one mom recently learned that their gaming decisions can have brutal real-life consequences.
Jessica Johnson from Wilton, Connecticut, has a 6-year-old who loves playing video games on an iPad. It shouldn’t have been such an issue except for two vital points: Her PayPal account was linked to the iPad, and she’d set a password — but she thinks her settings only asked for a one-time password entry.
So her son spent part of his summer playing Sonic Forces and making staggering in-game purchases that Johnson had no clue about.
In all, she was hit with an Apple App Store bill for $16,293.10 — absurd enough to sound like a joke, but this was no laughing matter.
She tried to contest the charges with her bank, but they confirmed that she would be held responsible for them. After she reached out to Apple, they refunded part of the staggering amount.
“They refunded me back 10,553.86,” Johnson told Good Morning America.
Apple also told the news outlet in a statement that they understand that “mistakes can still happen” and appeared to want to do right by the blindsided Johnson.
“For over a decade, the App Store has proved to be the safest and most trusted place to discover and download apps,” they said.
“We understand mistakes can still happen and work with customers to investigate, educate them on the tools available for their protection and, in this case, provided the customer with a refund.”
Johnson is taking the opportunity to warn other parents who, like her, might be stressed with everything on their plate and not realize that it is possible for their children to rack up thousands of dollars of purchases.
“As a mother of young children, I thought it was important for other parents to be aware of it,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate, because we’re all in a pandemic, we’re all working from home.”
“We are working really hard to keep our kids entertained while getting work done. We’re [sometimes] inclined to say, ‘Here, take the iPad.’ I think, clearly, it backfired in my case.”
“I didn’t realize there was a setting where the child could continue to buy without the password after a certain amount of time. There are various settings that now I’m learning about.”
She also likened the games to gambling.
“It’s intentionally designed to be a brain chemistry experience that one would get as an adult in a casino,” she added.
“It’s creating a compulsion to want to keep going. I think that’s what drove my son to keep pushing the button, get more players, to run faster.”
Aside from making sure your devices require permission before allowing purchases and setting up parental controls so you can be updated on activities, GMA’s tech contributor Becky Worley urges parents to take an active role in their children’s device use.
“Parents need to be asking questions like, ‘Who do you play with?’ ‘What do you like about a game?’ and ‘When do you know that you’ve played too much?'” Worley said.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Stephanie Samar says that in a situation like this, the amount of money might not even make sense to a child, but that there are ways parents can handle the issue properly and ultimately letting the child know they are forgiven. She notes that sometimes letting them do some chores to help “pay” is effective.
“Even if they aren’t earning chore money, what would be the equivalent of paying back $16,000 at this age?” she asked.
Thankfully, the bulk of the charge was returned, and Johnson has been able to alert other parents to this possibility. Johnson has since switched her kids to a console, which seems to be more secure, and said her son “was very apologetic” and is “a sensitive kid.”
How would you handle this sort of situation?
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.