Internet gaming has reached new heights with the advent of social media and smart phones and with developers trying to create the new big game, consumers are lapping it all up, but at what price? For Mr Sean Cheong, that price is $4,300 – just for the month of February.
His son Lucas has found the pleasures of the new ‘It’ game Candy Crush Saga which has taken the online gaming world by storm, and Lucas has inadvertently charged $4,300 to his father’s credit card which is linked to his iTunes account.
Lucas admitted sheepishly to The New Paper that he had been spending money on extra moves and boosts in the game but was not aware of the exact amount of money he had spent.
Real money for virtual boosts
He added that he had become addicted to the game since downloading it this January and became obsessed about beating his friends and advancing to the next level in the fastest possible way. This of course could be done with extra virtual boosts that come with a real price tag. These extras range from a ‘cheap’ $1.28 to a heftier $51.98 each. One can only imagine how many boosts Lucas got to rake up a bill of over $4,000.
Cultivating a bad habit?
It may come as a surprise to many readers that the father was aware that his child was spending money on these mobile games as Lucas usually charged about $100 to his father’s credit card a month. This was seen as an acceptable amount and the father had given him his own iTunes account password which was tagged to his credit card. This of course allowed free rein to purchase anything and everything he wanted to advance to the next level.
Mr Cheong resignedly admitted that he is to blame for this happening as he “trusted his older boy too much.” As punishment, Mr Cheong has since confiscated his son’s iPhone and iPad along with cutting his allowance.
This is a worrying trend as Mr Cheong is now laden with credit card bills that he cannot pay.
Gaming a solution to teen rebellion?
Yet, there are some parents who do not mind indulging their child’s penchant for apps and online games. In the New Paper on Sunday, it was reported that Goh Yan, 15, spends thousands on online games and apps such as Farmville, Bejeweled Blitz and lately Candy Crush Saga. His mum, Madam Tay, a single parent told the paper that she doesn’t mind footing the bill as “It’s better than having him mix around with bad company.”
A stepping stone to hardcore gambling
The kicker though is the fact that these games can be categorised as bad company too. According to counsellors and social media experts, these online games that allow players to gamble or buy things using virtual currency, purchased with real money could set them up for problem gambling and financial mismanagement later in life.
The worst part is that these are free-to-all games that anyone young and old can play and without proper supervision this could have drastic effects. We’ve seen how it can deplete finances but these games could also encourage anti-social behaviour, an unhealthy lifestyle and could contribute to your child losing touch with the real world.
Nothing’s for free
This misleading tag of ‘free games’ has come under fire lately as iPhone and iPad users are blaming Apple for the large credit card bills they are getting when their child ‘accidentally’ buys these in-app purchases. But who really is to blame? Personally I feel that parents should shoulder most of the blame as these companies bottom line is to make money while it is the parents’ responsibility to parent and manage their child.
Activate parental controls
There is however a simple solution to prevent your child ‘accidentally’ buying in-app purchases and that is through parental controls. On the iPhone and iPad, it’s as easy as going into Settings, then into General, then Restrictions. Enable the restrictions (we recommend creating a PIN so that your child can’t undo your handiwork) and then turn off In-App Purchases under the Allowed Content heading.
You can also add these controls to other applications , such as iTunes, the camera, or the Safari Web browser when they’re playing with your phone or tablet.
Tackle gaming addiction
The very first thing that you need to do is admit that your child has a problem. That is the first step. Once you have admitted it, you can work on ways to help him overcome the addiction. Here are some things you can do.
- Identify the symptoms as early as possible and do not just dismiss it as your child’s interest in games or as a hobby. (Remember it is always easier to treat/tackle something when it is in its earlier stage)
- Be firm about the times they are allowed on their computer and do not let excuses such as “5 more minutes” or “just one more game” deter you from pulling the plug on their gaming.
- Help them find other interests such as sports and encourage them to take up new hobbies apart from gaming.
- Create tech-free family activities that allow you to interact and bond with your child such as picnics in the park, family dinners or even board game nights.
IN In the News, OMG!, Parenting Woes | March 12, 2013