It came out this week that Google is facing a class action lawsuit by parents who claim their children were unfairly targeted and tempted to make in-app game purchases.
The one named plaintiff in the suit is Ilana Imber-Gluck, a New York mother, whose 5 year-old kid ran up $68.95 in charges in a game called Marvel Run Jump Smash.
At issue is Google’s current app/in-app password protection. If you enter your password to buy an app or in-app currency you don’t need to enter it again for 30 minutes. That is apparently how this kid was able to spend almost $70 in a matter of minutes.
While I agree that Google should update their password policy I think the blame in all of this rests on the shoulders of the mother.
(UPDATE: Google has recently rolled out an update to the Play Store. You now have the option to always be prompted to use a password for purchases.)
The game she downloaded for her 5 year-old kid has a content rating of “medium maturity”. So what does that mean? According to Google’s Android Developer Support Page these are the qualifications for a “medium maturity” app:
Apps that include references to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
Apps that include gambling themes or simulated gambling.
Apps that include inflammatory content.
Apps that include profanity or crude humor.
Apps that include sexual or suggestive references.
Apps that include mild cartoon or fictional violence.
Apps that include realistic or intense fictional violence.
If an app meets any of these criteria a developer must rate it “medium maturity”. She downloaded this app for a 5 year-old. I haven’t played the game in question but I can tell you if either of my daughters asked if they could download the game I would tell them no based on the content rating.
In case you missed it… my kids need to ask for permission before each and every app download. They don’t know the passwords. I read the description. I read the reviews. I look at how the app is rated. If it checks out I’ll download it for them. If it doesn’t, sorry, you’ll have to find another game.
Too often technology is the babysitter and I’m guessing that’s the case here. I don’t mean to point fingers. I’ve been guilty of it too but if I were that parent I’d take the $70 hit and have a discussion with my kid.
I also blame the lawyer in this. There are too many frivolous lawsuits these days and I think this is one of them.
Let this serve as a reminder to parents who let their kids play on their phone or tablet. Make sure you know the password policy of the app store you use and make sure you’re paying attention to the apps/games your kids are using.
So, who do you blame? The kid, the mom, or the lawyers?