Online Safety – 29/11/23 – Microtransactions

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, apps and games have become an integral part of children’s lives. However, within these applications, a feature called “microtransactions” has gained prominence, and it’s important to understand what they are and their potential risks.

Microtransactions refer to small, often repeated financial transactions within apps or games. These can take various forms, such as buying virtual currency, unlocking levels, purchasing in-game items, or accessing additional content. While these transactions may seem innocuous, they can lead to unintended consequences and risks, particularly for our young ones.

Risks associated with microtransactions include:

  1. Financial Concerns: Children might unknowingly make purchases using real money, leading to unexpected charges on linked accounts or credit cards.
  2. Addictive Behaviour: The design of games with microtransactions can be addictive, encouraging continuous spending to progress or unlock features, which might affect a child’s behaviour and create dependency.
  3. Privacy and Security Issues: Some apps collect personal information during these transactions, potentially compromising a child’s privacy and data security.

To help mitigate these risks, here are some actions parents can take:

  1. Set Clear Boundaries: Establish guidelines with your child about in-app purchases. Discuss what is acceptable and set spending limits, ensuring they understand the implications of using real money in apps or games.
  2. Enable Parental Controls: Many platforms and devices offer parental control settings that allow you to restrict or disable in-app purchases. Take advantage of these features to prevent unauthorized transactions.
  3. Educate Your Child: Teach your child about the value of money and the consequences of overspending in apps. Encourage them to ask for permission before making any purchases.
  4. Regularly Monitor Activity: Keep track of your child’s app usage and monitor transactions, especially if they have access to devices connected to payment methods.
  5. Explore Alternatives: Look for apps and games that offer a one-time purchase option or have no in-app purchases to minimize the temptation for continuous spending.