Parents’ Guide To In-App Purchases

 In Homepage, Blog, Console

Loot boxes have been in the news today after a government report is suggesting that gambling legislation be changed to include them.

In-App purchases offer players items to enhance their game, either in appearance, equipment or abilities. “Loot box” is a phrase used to identify in-game purchases that offer a chance of winning a rare item. This is different from in-app purchases in games like Fortnite where you simply choose the items you want to buy.

Loot Box Discussion on BBC Radio

Currently “loot boxes” are not counted as gambling because what you win has no monetary value. Although not identical in nature, they offer a similar experience of winning a sought after item to the football stickers I used to collect when I was young, or the “blind bag” toys currently popular with children.

You can identify which games include in-app purchases as these are designated by the In-App Purchase PEGI symbol or have the “In-App Purchase” text next to the description before purchase.

To ensure children don’t mistakenly make unexpected purchases you should have a password set up on devices associated with your credit card. Some families use gift cards to provide children with purchasing power without a credit card. On most consoles, you can also set up regular pocket money amounts that children can then spend.

As suggested in the BBC interview above, the best way to keep gaming safe is to engage with and share this activity with your child. Playing games together, asking your child about the games they play and playing games yourselves, enables you to make informed choices.

In-app purchases do need some care but are an excellent way to introduce your child to the idea of virtual purchases and currency. I’ve had a number of valuable conversations with my children that have helped them learn to assess value as well as costs. This not only keeps their spending sensible but can also help in other areas of their digital future.

Platform holders have pledged to display odds of winning different items in “Loot box” purchases by 2020. Additionally, specific games are already moving to disclose contents of boxes before purchase. Fortnite Save the World now shows players every item that will get in a paid llama before opening it. Rocket League will reveal contents of crates in Rocket League.

More Information

In-app purchase settings are controlled by setting up child accounts on consoles:
Prevent unauthorized purchases on Xbox One
Set Spending limit on PlayStation 4
Restrict Nintendo Switch purchases

On smartphones and tablets this is controlled in general settings:
Use iOS Screen Time to control in-app purchases
Require password for purchases on Android

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