Surprised by Accidental App Purchases? Experienced Parents Share Tips to Safeguard Your Phone

Have you ever handed your child your phone only to be surprised by numerous charges for app downloads? You’re not alone. Many parents have experienced similar scenarios.

“My then three-year-old downloaded 23 apps in about three minutes, costing us $43,” reports Jessica Cohen who blogs at Found the Marbles.

Julie Meyers Pron of Julieverse also has first hand experience with pricey purchases conducted through apps. “My daughter purchased a 7 night vacation for two to Costa Rica while we were at a football game one afternoon. Over $5,000 was instantly charged. So sweet of her.”

This is such a common problem that Apple recently settled a class action lawsuit filed by customers whose children accidentally downloaded apps on their iOS devices. The Huffington Post reported affected customers will receive a $5 iTunes credit or an iTunes gift card in the same amount, costing Apple around $100 million.

Many parents have called Apple to share stories of accidental downloads and the company has been understanding, often deleting charges from an individual’s iTunes Store account.

Girlmama’s Melissa Angert shared that her sister let her 4 year old borrow her phone only to find that he bought a ton of apps. “I told her that’s why parents all have passwords on their iTunes!”  Angert reported that her sister was able to get her money refunded but she still felt terrible.

“My son clicked on an ad within one of the educational apps my mom had on her iPad,” said Dresden Shumaker of Creating Motherhood. Since she didn’t have any safeguards up to stop instant downloading Shumaker’s mother contacted Apple. “They essentially said they would refund once.”

Meyers Pron was able to contact Living Social, the company who offered the pricey Costa Rican vacation. She said they while they were wonderful and laughed politely about the purchase before cancelling they sale, they also advised her to “password protect my apps for the future.” While she’s always password protected her iTunes account, she took additional steps to “turn off in app purchases.”

Cohen seconds the recommendation for turning off the in-app purchase options on her kids’ iPad but finds it doesn’t stop the temptation that she finds frustrating. “They constantly get pop-up offers anyway. For my little one those pop-ups are just screaming buy me.”

Shumaker shared that her mother “removed all kid apps with ads and has it set up so that every purchase requires a password” to combat future accidental downloads.

“I worry especially with so many in-App purchases available,” admitted Hillary Chybinski, an online content creator who blogs at My Scraps. “We try to keep the Wi-Fi limited and turn off in-app purchases on the kids’ iPad.”

While it may seem that this is common for iOS devices connected to iTunes, it’s not a platform specific problem.

“My son bought stuff for the Smurfs’ Village game on my Android phone,” Jill Berry of Musings from Me shared. “I had switched phones and hadn’t updated to not allow purchases without a password. I used his money from his grandparents to pay for the $20 purchase.”

Child using a mobile phone via Shutterstock

Add a Comment
Back To Tech Savvy Parents
  1. by Kim

    On March 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    I have an android tablet and found 2 apps for my kiddo. Toddler lock and Kid Mode. Both keep him stuck in the app, so he can`t delete information (he`s 2) and are completely void of adds. Kid mode has purchasable additions, but they require using the parent dashboard to do it. Its not actually possible to purchase things in the kids app itself.

  2. by TM Blum

    On March 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Great read – managing in app purchases can indeed be a massive problem.

    We are developing a solution: a safe, easy-to-use wish list for virtual goods, providing parents and grandparents a way to connect with young gamers. (

    Players of mobile/tablet games can add in-game items they want to a list. Family members can gift the selected goods as a way to celebrate, reward good behavior, or simply say “you’re awesome”.

    We are in the early stages of our development – let us know what you think!