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Posted by on Jan 5, 2012 in Play | 3 comments

Stop toddlers running up huge iTunes bills!

Stop toddlers running up huge iTunes bills!

Over on today, I read yet another story of a toddler running up a huge iTunes bill while playing with a parent’s phone. And earlier this week, a coworker of mine got a huge shock when he downloaded a free game from Android Marketplace for his five year old and the five year old made two accidental purchases while playing with it.

Now this isn’t a new problem for parents. It’s been going on for a few years. But still if you’re new to smartphones – or new to toddlers! – you may not realise just how easy it can be to make purchases from within apps – especially so-called “free” apps. And I’m guessing that since it’s so soon after Christmas there are a few of you getting to grips with shiny new phones who might benefit from this post!

Last year I complained about an app that was annoying us in this house called Gina the Giraffe, in a post called How much does a free app cost? In that post, I outlined some simple steps to follow to ensure you don’t fall victim to expensive toddler or child in-app purchases while they play something on your phone*:

To enable restrictions on in-app purchases on your iPhone or iPad, you complete these steps:
1. Open Settings
2. Click General
3. Click Restrictions
4. Click the Enable Restrictions button
5. Enter a 4 digit passcode when prompted
6. Re-enter your 4 digit passcode to confirm
7. Scroll down to In-app purchases in the Allowed Content section
8. Slide the In-app purchases slider to Off
Now if anyone attempts to make an in-app purchase, a pop-up appears telling them that “You do not have in app purchases enabled.”

Now be aware that the solution above only covers in-app purchases, and doesn’t have any impact on purchases made directly from the iTunes store. To prevent those, the best approach is to ensure you set a password on your ITunes account and do not share it with your child. Keeping your password private is not enough however because whenever you make a purchase or download an update, your iPhone or iPad remembers your password for 15 minutes after you’ve entered it, so during that time further downloads can be made without re-entering the password.

So that’s my advice to those of you with Apple gadgets. I’ve never used an Android phone or tablet though so I’m afraid I don’t have any solutions for those of you worrying about unwanted purchases from the Android marketplace. If any of you do have a suggested solution for Android, please share it in the comments below!

*And yes, I am aware that the simple solution is not to give your phone or iPad to your toddler in the first place – but I happen to think there are lots of worthwhile apps to use with my toddler – so that suggestion is simply avoidance of the problem rather than a solution to it. 🙂


  1. Just saw this via a retweet on  For android devices, you can’t explicitly turn off in-app purchases, but you can set a PIN.  Go into the Market place, go into the Options Menu, Settings, and tick Use PIN for purchases. Had to do this after getting hit with a big charge for crystals. 🙁

  2. Done! I also feel a blog post coming on…

    • Hope you’ve gotten over the shock Kate! It’s extremely annoying that this can happen so easily.

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