confirm purchase

In our new digital age, you’re able to make instant purchases through your phone or video game system. And the responsibility check for wielding that power is that parents need to understand the technology they’re using and lock it down.

Today, a story’s making the rounds about an Oregon dad whose toddler bought a car on eBay because he’d left his phone unlocked and the app open.

The car – a 1962 Austin Healey – which was won with 14-month old Sorella Stoute’s accidental $225 bid, is in sore need of body work, which dad Paul Stoute has decided to do. Sorella, according to dad, may now get the car for her 16th birthday or her graduation.

Not every story ends up this happily.

A father in British Columbia, Canada got a $22,000 roaming charge on his cellphone back in March when his 11-year old son took his phone out of “airplane mode” and streamed the equivalent of 12 hours of videos on YouTube.

The father, Matt Buie, said that the cellphone company, Rogers, is “gouging” and had negotiated the bill down considerably. Turns out, Rogers charges more in roaming than other carriers in Canada and are being accused of trying to “shock” customers like Buie into buying roaming packages for their vacations.

iphone restrictions

Parents: make sure your Restrictions settings look like this! (also, password protect your Restrictions)

The list goes on: a British kid in February blew $2,500 on in-game purchases while playing Zombie v Ninja on his parents’ iPad. As the crow flies, five year old Danny Kitchen wanted to download the (free) game, so one of his parents typed in their account password. Because they didn’t have their account set to require the password immediately, every time (see screenshot to right), Danny was able to buy questionably-expensive stacks of weapons from within the (free, remember?!) game.

Apple refunded the money and people are left wondering why apps are allowed to offer ridiculously-priced traps for anyone without restrictions set on their iPhone.

Another one out of England: Thirteen year old Cameron Crossman racked-up a £3,700 (that’s $5,525.17, y’all!) iTunes bill from within games like Plants vs Zombies, Hungry Shark, Gun Builder and N.O.V.A. 3. Some of these games are free, but again, have in-game content for purchase.

Crossman’s father Doug noted that though a password needed to be entered before each purchase, Cameron “innocently thought that, because it was advertised as a free game, the clicks would not cost anything.”

Doug (a policeman, and wait this gets better) obviously didn’t think Cameron was too innocent, however; he reported his son for fraud with the national Action Fraud helpline. His aim was to embarrass Apple and teach his son a lesson, but it’s possible that if the investigation were to be followed-through (which Action Fraud said they wouldn’t), Cameron could end up with a criminal record.

What’s that? You want one more out of England, you say?

Alright: last year, a 12-year old from England ran up almost $1,800 on his Xbox Live account while playing Call of Duty and Fifa. Dad blames Microsoft, Microsoft says “YOLO, LOL”.

The official 8BitDad Bottom Line™ here is that parents need to understand the technology in their home and regulate it. There’s no more letting kids play “that damn Intendo” and being blissfully ignorant of it all. If you’re a parent (and our web stats say you are), you need to understand parental controls.

A quick search of “set parental controls” yields some good resources for Microsoft Windows, OS X Mountain Lion, Microsoft Xbox 360/Live, Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, and Android Devices.

Parents – whenever you buy a new device that connects to the internet in any way, whether it’s a video game system, phone, DVD/Blu ray player or cable box, setting parental controls and understanding how they work is the first priority.

Because don’t come crying to us when we tell you a game is super cool and your kid ends up buying a $100 vial of unicorn tears in-game.