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In-game app purchases - It's the child's money


IndigoGlitter
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My son is 7, I have been letting him earn money through various ways. Just a dollar or two here and there.

 

He wants to spend it on those gems, diamonds, coins whatever the going currency is in those apps on a tablet. Like to speed up farming times, building times etc within those popular building/farming games.

 

I don't want to let him buy them, they are way overpriced and he'd use them in (literally) 5 minutes. He would also spend all the money he gets on them. I just don't think this is the wisest choice for him to spend his money on. It's a waste.

 

Should I let him? It is his money. Am I belittling what he wants (as something I wouldn't spend a penny on) because *I* think it isn't worth it? Or am I teaching him that the value isn't there. Or is it that the value just isn't there for me?

 

I really do think it is a waste of money. You could spend, literally again, hundreds of dollars in these games. My son would do it if he had hundreds of dollars and I let him.

 

What says the hive?

 

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No.  I would not.

 

Between age 5 and 11 we have a 2 day waiting period on purchases.  If they still want it after two days, I will not stand in their way on how to spend their money.  But my job is to teach management skills, and that includes thoughtful spending instead of impulse buys.  In-app purchases are impulse buys, and we have a strict ban on them (turining off the function on the ipad even).

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I despise the inventors and purveyors of in game purchases. They are designed specifically to prey upon children and teens. Also purchasing advantages in the game seems to invalidate the point of it being a game. Effort and skill to make progress, people?

 

After an incident when I forgot to remove my credit card information after purchasing a game app for my then 8 year old resulting in her buying upward of $700 in gems in one night!!!! (thank you app store for deleting that unauthorized purchase), I realized that small children truly are not equipped to stand up to the enticements of these type of purchases. They have a hard time weighing short term game advancement against the not immediate "fun" of going to the store and buying a toy of equal cost that would give them years of play. So now I make sure my credit card information is deleted after each authorized purchase, and have ground rules for their money in that it must be saved, given to the cat shelter (our favorite charity), or used to buy PHYSICAL items such as books, toys, clothes, food, or clothes. All apps, games, and in game purchases are "gifts" from me and must go through my approval.

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We have this struggle here, too. What I gravitate towards us buying DD an iTunes giftcard for her bday/Christmas or letting her buy one 1-2x a year (small amounts, like $5-10). Then when it's used up, she has to wait. (At our house, the begging is for things on School of Dragons -- and I'll admit, it does enhance game play...but it never ends).

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At age 7 no I didn't allow that. I will let my 15 year old buy online games on steam now, but that I seems different than those little tokens you can get in free games. Even now, we don't buy those. I'd rather pay for a better designed game that has more long term playability.

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It is a want not a need but it is his money. We discuss how much of their money our kids are allowed to use for apps purchase and other wants. Maybe let a certain percentage or amount of his money be fun money for wants.

 

For example they paid for unlimited blocks in blocksworld (ipad) because they want to build stuff without waiting for the free daily block. That was $7 but it makes playing the building game more fun for them.

 

Sometimes when I am out for a day I buy a cup of coffee or snack. I could wait until I go home a few hours later but it is sending a message to my kids that either we are broke and mommy is counting pennies or we can afford it and mommy is a scrooge by not letting myself spend less than two dollars.

 

At 7, I was already given money to buy recess and lunch at the school canteen/tuckshop because we don't have school lunches where I am from. We have many food stalls to buy food from, kind of food court style.

 

Teach your child how to budget his money. You all can decide how much if any you are allowing him to spend on fun purchase.

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I would let my son spend his money on in game currency. Then later, when he wanted something else, just remind him how he chose to spend his money. Let him learn "The hard way" with smaller sums of money so maybe he'd learn later to use it more wisely.

 

This has been my experience with a child.  I think allowing a few small spending mistakes when they are young helps inoculate against bigger spending mistakes later. 

 

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If purchasing a few (say, under $10 or maybe $5) will make the game more fun to play, and also get him over a "hurdle" to a new level that he is unlikely to reach on his own soon, then it might be OK. Same as if you were actually buying a game to play, KWIM?

 

But whether the child had/inherited/earned unlimited money, I would *not* allow a 7yo to have unlimited access to those kinds of purchases.

 

Make it a little bit of a lesson- which purchases will help the game be more playable or enjoyable, not just "show off" decorative stuff or "gifts" to other random players. (APOLOGIES if any of this is irrelevant- I do not have a smartphone for games, and it;s been years since I played Farmville on facebook. :glare:  )

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I despise the inventors and purveyors of in game purchases. They are designed specifically to prey upon children and teens. Also purchasing advantages in the game seems to invalidate the point of it being a game. Effort and skill to make progress, people?

 

After an incident when I forgot to remove my credit card information after purchasing a game app for my then 8 year old resulting in her buying upward of $700 in gems in one night!!!! (thank you app store for deleting that unauthorized purchase), I realized that small children truly are not equipped to stand up to the enticements of these type of purchases. They have a hard time weighing short term game advancement against the not immediate "fun" of going to the store and buying a toy of equal cost that would give them years of play. So now I make sure my credit card information is deleted after each authorized purchase, and have ground rules for their money in that it must be saved, given to the cat shelter (our favorite charity), or used to buy PHYSICAL items such as books, toys, clothes, food, or clothes. All apps, games, and in game purchases are "gifts" from me and must go through my approval.

We had a similar situation here but my child charged $2200!! to my debit card thinking he was spending "coins" from the game!

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It is a want not a need but it is his money. We discuss how much of their money our kids are allowed to use for apps purchase and other wants. Maybe let a certain percentage or amount of his money be fun money for wants.

 

For example they paid for unlimited blocks in blocksworld (ipad) because they want to build stuff without waiting for the free daily block. That was $7 but it makes playing the building game more fun for them.

 

Sometimes when I am out for a day I buy a cup of coffee or snack. I could wait until I go home a few hours later but it is sending a message to my kids that either we are broke and mommy is counting pennies or we can afford it and mommy is a scrooge by not letting myself spend less than two dollars.

 

At 7, I was already given money to buy recess and lunch at the school canteen/tuckshop because we don't have school lunches where I am from. We have many food stalls to buy food from, kind of food court style.

 

Teach your child how to budget his money. You all can decide how much if any you are allowing him to spend on fun purchase.

 

:iagree:

 

As much as I despise that type of purchase, it's the "product" that many of our dc want these days. Back when we were younger it may have been candy or gum, or even some junky little toy that we'd promptly break or lose. So my feeling is that it's a way to help my dc learn to budget their money. If I say no to every purchase I deem unnecessary or wasteful, there would be very little a kid of that age could practice his purchasing power on.

 

Figure out what percentage of it he can spend, and let him choose what to "buy" with it.

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They're my kids. I approve or deny spending requests. I have never allowed my kids to spend money on in-app purchases.

 

I told my kids it's a monumental waste of money to spend real money on things that don't even actually exist. They got it but they were older.

 

I also talk to them about how the makes of these games are just trying to manipulate them.

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My oldest is 8 and only earns a little money.  Any purchases she (or the younger ones) wishes to make must be using the cash that she has on hand and done in person.  If it takes a credit card, then unfortunately she can't buy it.  Also, we "budget" any money she is earning.  Generally the money she is earning is for something specific so we create a plan of chores/things and how much each will earn her.  We keep a running total of cost and amount earned.  Sometimes when she reaches her goal, she is still willing to get the item other times she decides to wait.  

 

I think at these ages, it can be difficult for a child to understand the value of what they are earning and the value of their spending.  If you wish to allow him, maybe you could say in order to purchase that item (worth $x) you will need to do the following chores.  When those are done, I will credit you with this amount, and then I will add that amount to your account.  Or something to that effect.  Money can be one of those abstract things that can be difficult to understand, but maybe if he equates how much work he needs to do in order to have the game item it will be more tangible to him.

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If the sole purpose of the money is to spend on what he desires, then that is what he desires.  I would keep the amount small, discuss, then let him spend.

 

I struggled with this, and still do at 17.  DD is a makeup addict who will buy a lipstick when she has over 30!  WTH?  But the truth is that someone might look at something I buy and think it's frivolous or a waste.  We each have different things that make us happy.

 

Discuss the fleetingness of it, sure, but leave it up to him with small enough amounts not to do too much damage.

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No. I wouldn't want him playing the game, either. 

 

Btw I let all my kids (even the baby) play with apps and my oldest buys downloadable content for his Wii U. We love mindless games. But spending ALL of your money on playing the same game over and over again (basically)... it just reminds me too much of a gambling addiction, I guess.

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If the sole purpose of the money is to spend on what he desires

 

I think this gets to the heart of it. 

 

For me, the money my kids earn doing chores around the house and the allowance I give them out of the goodness of my heart and the cash/gift cards they get as presents are not for the purpose of spending on whatever they desire.

 

Other families certainly can do it differently, but we don't allow the kids to spend "their own" money on things that go against our family's values. Although it may be a small matter, games that prey on children are against our family's values. That's why I deleted Clash of Clans from their devices. The game is designed so that you have to spend time on it every day to keep advancing.

 

No. 

 

My dd13 has learned that telling me "But if I want to get X on Animal Jam, I have to be on at Y time" is the surest ticket to not getting on. Animal Jam is run be National Geographic. I am disappointed in the way they run it. I allow dd to play on it, but I do not allow it to rule how our family spends their time. She asked me once (once only) if she could purchase gems on Animal Jam. She was bored to tears by my long, long diatribe on why that would never happen as long as I had a breath left in my rotting carcass, and she never asked again.  :laugh:

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I use those gems and crap as currency. You want to buy 5 gems? Fine. Here's an extra chore. Do that and you earn five gems. Or whatever the .99 cent option is.

 

My children think chores are a circle of hell, so they quickly decide whether or not they actually want those gems.

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The stridency of the answers sort of bug me. I get banning the games, but if he's allowed to play the games and allowed to have his own money, then it seems to me, it's his own money and he should spend it on anything he wants that's allowed. Otherwise, the money isn't his. It's mom's and she's giving him some choices with it. As a kid, this would have made me insane. I get that this kid is pretty young, but really by age 9 or 10, this is the sort of thing that would have made me so resentful. I guess i just wonder what's the real lesson a child gets from this if you let him have "his own" money and then don't allow him to spend it.

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Mostly at that age we had three categories--spend, save, and church--and prior agreement about proportions between them.  The spend part was pretty much on whatever DD wanted to do with it. 

 

Having said that, games at arcades and purchases in online games seem like gateways to casinos to me.  Now, I don't oppose all gambling--I enjoy playing blackjack at a casino now and then--but I do know how addictive gambling can be, so I consciously avoided excessive spending opportunities for that by not going to places with arcades very often.  It was very interesting to me to observe how readily kids that age left behind the cool gross motor skill type opportunities at places like that in favor of these stupid games for 'tickets' to redeem for stuffed toys and other things that they wouldn't normally even want.  I think that these are SET UP to be addictive, and I would encourage you to think that through as it might play out in your own family before you decide what to do about it.

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I do actually allow some in app purchases, but usually to unlock more content rather than pay to win (which is often what buying in game currency is). In my case, that has a lot to do with being aware that software development doesn't come free. Since I'm married to a software engineer/architect, I know how much training and skill goes into a good program-and our family's livelihood depends on people buying software. While DH isn't in game development, if a product is good, I'm willing to pay for it. Having said that, I prefer models like Plants Vs Zombies 1 (where you could get the first few levels free, and then paid to unlock the full version) vs Plants vs Zombies 2, where a lot of the plants require an extra purchase and you could easily buy your way through the game if you paid enough out to get enough coins. I'm also the person who often pays to support websites or for premium membership for the same reason-I want to support those who make good products, especially models that make them available to a wider range of people.

 

In many respects, I see apps as being the current version of Shareware/nagware, and just as I don't use Shareware on my PC without paying for the full version beyond a short trial period, I generally don't use apps unless there is enough value to make it worth paying for.

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If my kids have money, they spend it on stupid stuff. They want to spend it as soon as they have it. Seriously, in-app purchases would be better than some of the random junk my kids will buy because they have money burning a hole in their pockets. This is one of the reasons why I pretty much never give my kids money.

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I guess i just wonder what's the real lesson a child gets from this if you let him have "his own" money and then don't allow him to spend it.

 

With my kids, the lesson is "be a good steward of your money, and don't waste it."

 

It's also "it's ok to want something but that doesn't mean you have to buy it."

 

And also "There's an opportunity cost to everything you buy, so carefully consider your spending."

 

I know these are the lessons because these are the things my kids (including my adult daughter) have told me they have leaned from us.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm conflicted about this. I used to hate paying for stuff like e books (still do) but I thought about it and realised when I'm buying a book it's not the paper I'm buying but the words. And software is the same. And actually news sites as well. With everyone reading free news on the net journalism quality goes down. With all this stuff someone somewhere has to pay. You aren't paying for nothing you are paying for someone's time and labour.

 

However those games where you buy coins to win - yuck. Like the point is to challenge your brain not opt out. I like the ones that have ads and then you pay to go ad free. That way everyone can afford to use it but the game makers can make money still. If it's free and there's no ads why are they making it? In some cases it's data collection.

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I let my kids do this.  It's actually been a great lesson and keeps them from asking me to buy in-app stuff.  They have the option of using chore money or allowance money for this.  They've decided which in-app buys seem worth it to them and which are a waste of money (in their minds). 

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If it were my kid, I would say no. Also, I don't make it very easy for my kids to amass a lot of disposable money because it doesn't feel like a big deal to waste money on this.

 

When my DD was little, she was into NeoPets and that is one thing I disallowed: no real money.

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The stridency of the answers sort of bug me. I get banning the games, but if he's allowed to play the games and allowed to have his own money, then it seems to me, it's his own money and he should spend it on anything he wants that's allowed. Otherwise, the money isn't his. It's mom's and she's giving him some choices with it. As a kid, this would have made me insane. I get that this kid is pretty young, but really by age 9 or 10, this is the sort of thing that would have made me so resentful. I guess i just wonder what's the real lesson a child gets from this if you let him have "his own" money and then don't allow him to spend it.

I understand your POV, and I have allowed my kids to make some "dumb purchases" to have them learn the hard way to evaluate whether or not something is a waste. But I still say no when I have a philosphical objection to something. For one of my kids it was Red Bull/Monster/SunDrop. Kid wanted to buy these junk drinks wit his own money, but I said no on principle. He was also older than the kid in the OP, but I think some things you have to teach about principles. There are things I will not buy no matter how much money I have, because I disagree with some aspect of the company or how it fuels consumptive behaviours, or whatever other idea I am against. I want my kids to think critically too; I don't want them to think the only obstacle to buying whatever they want is having enough money.

 

When I tell my kids they cannot buy something with their own money, I don't come down hard on it, I just explain my position. I would say something like, "It bothers me that these companies are capturing young kids as a 'market' and it bothers me that buying tokens on a digital game makes it too easy to waste money."

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I understand your POV, and I have allowed my kids to make some "dumb purchases" to have them learn the hard way to evaluate whether or not something is a waste. But I still say no when I have a philosphical objection to something. For one of my kids it was Red Bull/Monster/SunDrop. Kid wanted to buy these junk drinks wit his own money, but I said no on principle. He was also older than the kid in the OP, but I think some things you have to teach about principles. There are things I will not buy no matter how much money I have, because I disagree with some aspect of the company or how it fuels consumptive behaviours, or whatever other idea I am against. I want my kids to think critically too; I don't want them to think the only obstacle to buying whatever they want is having enough money.

 

When I tell my kids they cannot buy something with their own money, I don't come down hard on it, I just explain my position. I would say something like, "It bothers me that these companies are capturing young kids as a 'market' and it bothers me that buying tokens on a digital game makes it too easy to waste money."

We're of the same mind here. I remember when club penguin went from free to a membership model. There were members only club areas and members only activities which of course led to ugly behavior by many members toward non members. Way to go, faceless corporation.

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I understand your POV, and I have allowed my kids to make some "dumb purchases" to have them learn the hard way to evaluate whether or not something is a waste. But I still say no when I have a philosphical objection to something. For one of my kids it was Red Bull/Monster/SunDrop. Kid wanted to buy these junk drinks wit his own money, but I said no on principle. He was also older than the kid in the OP, but I think some things you have to teach about principles. There are things I will not buy no matter how much money I have, because I disagree with some aspect of the company or how it fuels consumptive behaviours, or whatever other idea I am against. I want my kids to think critically too; I don't want them to think the only obstacle to buying whatever they want is having enough money.

 

When I tell my kids they cannot buy something with their own money, I don't come down hard on it, I just explain my position. I would say something like, "It bothers me that these companies are capturing young kids as a 'market' and it bothers me that buying tokens on a digital game makes it too easy to waste money."

 

Well, sure. I definitely feel free to express strong opinions to my kids about how they want to spend their money. It's more that in the end, I let them make the mistake if they're going to make it. I definitely give guidance. And I would say no if I had a philosophical objection. That's why I say I get banning the games. Like, if you object to the games, I'd ban the games. It's the discrepancy of saying you can do this but you can't use your very own money for it, not just I really think you shouldn't spend your money and here's why.

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Well, sure. I definitely feel free to express strong opinions to my kids about how they want to spend their money. It's more that in the end, I let them make the mistake if they're going to make it. I definitely give guidance. And I would say no if I had a philosophical objection. That's why I say I get banning the games. Like, if you object to the games, I'd ban the games. It's the discrepancy of saying you can do this but you can't use your very own money for it, not just I really think you shouldn't spend your money and here's why.

Yeah, I understand that. It is why I was never a big fan of the Larry Burkette model of giving allowance but having the spend-save-give delineation that you enforce. (No offense meant to those who use this model.) I just thought it was strange to say, "here's your five dollars, Susie, but .50 has to go in your Giving bank, 2.00 has to go in your saving bank and the rest can go in your spending bank."

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Other families certainly can do it differently, but we don't allow the kids to spend "their own" money on things that go against our family's values. Although it may be a small matter, games that prey on children are against our family's values.

 

 

That is exactly how I phrase it with our kids. It goes against our values, and this is how.

 

My kids have their own clothes and books too. That doesn't mean I let them rip them up, set them on fire, or throw them away. And if you think that's a stretch of a comparison, I congratulate you on your very gentle children :laugh:

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No. I would not.

 

Between age 5 and 11 we have a 2 day waiting period on purchases. If they still want it after two days, I will not stand in their way on how to spend their money. But my job is to teach management skills, and that includes thoughtful spending instead of impulse buys. In-app purchases are impulse buys, and we have a strict ban on them (turining off the function on the ipad even).

That is not a half-bad policy for any age person. I have imposed something like this upon myself at Amazon. One-click buying. Heaven. Tool of the Devil. Both, at the same time. ;)

 

I am trying to train myself to stick things on my Wish List, rather than in my cart. This lets the fever burn off. I just had to enforce my own policy upon myself yesterday, when I was sorely, sorely tempted to buy three books, especially after I looked and saw that my library either doesn't carry them, or does but there is a long wait. So very tempted. But, I reasoned, if these books are so great, there is no reason I can't wait to read them. There is no hurry and there's a good probability that if I did order them, they would sit around unread for months while I read all the other books I have too-quickly bought.

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I would let my son spend his money on in game currency. Then later, when he wanted something else, just remind him how he chose to spend his money. Let him learn "The hard way" with smaller sums of money so maybe he'd learn later to use it more wisely.

 

This is what I was going to suggest. Ds used to beg for those cheap dollar store toys, and I finally started letting him spend some of his money on them. It took him buying a few toys that fell apart almost as soon as he opened them, but he did eventually learn they weren't worth it.

 

OP, you know your child. Do you think he's capable (both his maturity and personality) of learning the lesson that it isn't a wise use of his money? If so, I'd let him do it. If not, I'd keep a tighter control over his money. Maybe let him get a few, but limit the amount he can spend on the in-app purchases.

Edited by Lady Florida
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I'm so glad you brought up this topic. I am currently making the very same decision with one of my kids.

 

I would love to think that natural consequences (using real money and seeing how fast it was gone) would work, but natural consequences NEVER work with my kids! Like they refuse to wear a jacket and get cold, they should wear a jacket next time, right? Nope. Never.   :huh:

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