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Ask Deemable Tech: Restricting In-App Purchases

Brad Flickinger / Flickr

Amanda writes, "Our family recently got our first iPad. We want the kids to be allowed to use it, but I am worried that they will get into trouble with it. Many of the games on the iPad ask you to buy things. I don’t want my kids running up a big credit card bill! Is there a way to stop this from happening?"

Great question, Amanda. In-app purchases are an issue with smartphones and tablets that not nearly enough parents are aware of. In fact, we’ve heard news stories about kids accidentally running up thousands of dollars in charges in their favorite mobile game. Fortunately, iPhones and iPads both come with built-in tools that allow parents to control what their kids are getting into.

Open the Settings icon on your iPad, and look for “Restrictions” under “General”. Tap “enable restrictions” and you’ll be asked to create a passcode. Be sure to use a different passcode than the one you use to lock your device, since your kids probably already know that code.

After you’ve created the passcode, you’ll see a list of features you can restrict access to, including in-app purchases, Safari and even the camera. Tap the button next to “in-app purchases” and any other feature you want to be restricted (that button will be green when the feature isn’t restricted, and white when the restriction is on). This will turn off these features.

Now keep in mind, Amanda, that when you enter that passcode to make an in-app purchase, the restriction will be turned off for 15 minutes by default. If you’re worried that you might put down your iPad and one of your kids might rush over and start buying things within that window, you can set it to ask for the passcode every single time. Go back to the “Restrictions” screen, re-enter your code and scroll down to the option that says “Require password”. Tap that and select “Immediately”. Now the iPad will require the passcode every time anyone tries to make an in-app purchase.

Android devices also have the power to restrict in-app purchases. On your Android tablet or smartphone, open the Play Store (the app you use to download other apps) and go to the settings menu. There you will see an option that says “Use password to restrict purchases”.

Android doesn’t have as many built-in parental control features as iOS does, but there are a ton of great parental control apps out there. You can find them by searching “parental controls” in the Play Store.

Whether you’ve got a table or a smartphone, iOS or Android, there are a many easy-to-use options to allow your family to safely enjoy their new toy.

For more great tech ad?vice, download the Deemable Tech app (for iPhone and Android), and listen to Deemable Tech's full length podcast at You can also follow them on Twitter @Deemable.

Ray Hollister can be reached at, 904-358-6341 or on Twitter at @rayhollister.
Tom Braun is a writer living in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to writing about tech and co-hosting WJCT’s Deemable Tech, he writes content for websites and blogs, ghostwrites ebooks, writes short fiction and has written a woefully unpublished dystopian young adult novel that is no doubt his ticket to fame and fortune. Before realizing his true calling as a writer, Tom worked for over a decade as a software developer. He enjoys board games and traveling and once spent a year living in The Netherlands.