Apps are increasingly popular for mobile users. Apps are used for a range of purposes. Some businesses use apps as tools for mobile employees. Retailers may have their own apps. And there are also plenty of utility apps, for example, weather or mapping apps and of course, games.

Many mobile apps are inexpensive or even free. Consumers should always be careful to read the terms and conditions before purchasing and downloading any app.

In-App Purchases

Some games apps marketed to children are often free to download, but include the ability for players to make “in-app purchases” while playing the game.

Such “in-app purchases” are basically online purchases made during the playing of the mobile app game and they can only be made if credit card details are linked to the app store or iTunes account.

Children may not always be mature enough to spend responsibly or understand that they are spending real money while playing such a game and it is important that parents are aware of the apps that their children download and how they use them. It  pays to read the reviews and ratings of any app before downloading it. 

The ACCC has some advice for consumers concerned about in-app purchases here.


Here are AMTA’s tips for parents about managing in-app purchases:

  • Do not share any account passwords or PINs with your child that will allow them to make purchases from your mobile device.
  • Do not allow your child to use an app store or iTunes account that is linked to a credit card. Instead create another unlinked account just for them and protect your linked account with a password or PIN.
  • You can provide your with a voucher for iTunes or another app store for their unlinked account which will limit your child's ability to download apps or make in-app purchases.

There are also several ways parents can implement controls on mobiles or app accounts:

  • Sometimes spend limits can be set for an account, either by contacting your mobile service provider or when you set up the app store account.
  • For Android mobile devices, you can enable restrictions going to the 'settings' menu on the Google Play store and choosing 'user controls'. Tick the password box to ensure that your account password will be required before downloading any paid apps or making in-app purchases.
  • You could also set up profiles on your Android device -  Android version 4.3 (Jellybean) or later, allows parents to set up different profiles for children and restrict access to apps approved by the parent and disable in-app purchases (although parents should be warned that not all apps will be compatible and can sometimes override restrictions set on the device).
  • There are also general parental control apps available for download for android devices, such as the Vodafone Guardian app for android which enables parents to set parental controls, including restricting the download of apps.
  • BlackBerry smartphones have features that give parents the ability to control and restrict their children's use of various services and apps, including installation of third party apps. For information and use on parental controls on BlackBerry devices please refer to Turn on Parental Controls.
  • iPhone/iPad users can enable 'restrictions' from the 'settings' menu and either require a password for in-app purchases or disable in-app purchases on the device. 


ASIC's MoneySmart Teaching program has some very useful interactive digital activities that teach kids about how to be mobile phone savvy including being aware of in-app purchasing, how to avoid bill shock and understand mobile phone advertising.

You can access the program of mobile phone activities by clicking (and search for 'mobiles')on this picture

 ASIC mobile activities wackyville

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