In-App Purchases For Kids: Was Kanye West Right To Attack Them?

Way back in October of this year, Kanye West launched a tirade on Twitter about companies that ‘cynically’ incorporate in-app purchases.

Kanye’s inspired rant came after his two-year-old daughter North had racked up considerable charges after playing games on an iPad.

In usual Kanye West style, the rapper tweeted that he would “F*** any game company that puts in-app purchases on kid’s games.”

“We give the iPad to our child and ‘every 5 minutes there’s a new purchase’!!!’ If a game is made for a 2 year old, just allow them to have fun and give the parents a break for Christ sake.”

Not sensing the irony, that he was venting the exact same frustration that parents had already expressed about his wife’s top-selling game app, Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood, Kanye’s problem with in-app purchases is one a lot of parents have had to deal with, especially at this time of year.

Debating the merits of giving a toddler access to an iPad or iPhone is quite redundant in the modern age; the technology is here, and it’s here to stay, but the dilemma remains … the next time your child picks up your iPhone, it could cost you a small fortune if you’re not on the ball when it comes to the sort of games they’re playing.

In-App Purchases

The story of youngsters notching up thousands of dollars worth of bills in just five minutes of innocently playing a game on their parents’ iPad has sounded the alarm bells in family homes up and down the land, where mums and dads are all a tad guilty of seeking a little “down time” and casually handing their iPhones or tablets to the kids.

Yet at what price is this much longed for peace and quiet? It’s rare that it’ll cost nigh on two grand, as it did the parents of one enthusiastic youngster who downloaded a whopping great debt for mum and dad after they somewhat unbelievably handed him an iPad with their iTunes password freshly tapped in and primed to go.

Ask yourself! In what paradise of the fool would such an action not seem like an almighty idiotic thing to do? It’s the equivalent of handing Lex Luther a large chunk of Kryptonite and warning him not to go near Superman when wearing it.

However, like most parents, I must confess and hold my hand up to a similar charge when it comes to my young son and a surprisingly addictive free to download iPhone game called, as many of you might be aware, Hay Day.

When you first hear the premise behind Hay Day, it sounds incredibly dull. In short you play an aspiring farmer who’s just starting out on the rural road. Obviously Hay Day is set in an old fashioned agricultural world untouched by the hands of battery farming and the whip crack of rampant capitalism.

As such, it’s your job to make a name for yourself in the Who’s Who of red-faced, dungaree-wearing, straw-hatted, cider-swilling farmers. And you do this by working the land, harvesting the crops, and rearing chickens, pigs, cows, and sheep, all to an unrelenting hillbilly soundtrack of banjos and fiddles.

But the action doesn’t stop there. No sir! As you progress through the rank and country-file, you also get the opportunity to build bakeries, sugar mills, dairies, and pie makers, which you can use to turn the bacon, eggs, milk, and wool you collect from your animals into fresh produce, which you can then trade with your friends, via Facebook, at the Farmer’s Market.

If all this sounds incredibly tedious when compared with massive gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, it’s not. Even the most hardened and hysterical trigger-happy first-person shooter will get a strange kind of thrill and rosy glow of satisfaction once they have collected their eggs for the first time, fleeced their sheep, milked their cows, slaughtered their pigs, and harvested their crops.

As it happens, kids also love Hay Day, and as it’s an educational game that possesses an old worldly charm, parents are usually more than happy to let them play it.

To progress in the world of Hay Day takes patience and some hard back breaking work in the fields. As your farm develops and you rise through the levels, you earn gold coins and diamonds, which can help you buy more animals and machinery, such as a jam maker, from the in-game shop. You can also use this currency to buy crops and what not from the Farmer’s Market.

Yet we have a problem, Houston. There’s also an in-game diamond and gold coin store which you can access at the convenient tap of a permanently on screen button. Once pressed it will lead you to the bank of diamonds and coins where you can buy more, more, more fake money with real money, rather than wait until you have actually earned it.

Now kids are not stupid. They know what the diamonds are and how they enable you to do funky little things on your farm like cut down trees, and blow up rocks, etc. So on one particular occasion, I waved the white flag and gave in to repeated demands from my son, who insisted that he needed a little sack of diamonds to carry out some essential work down on the farm.

In-App Purchases

With all the magnanimous gravity of a stern but benevolent god, I said to my boy, “Pass me the phone son.” And solemnly proceeded to tap in my sacredly secret iTunes password.

Handing him back the mobile to my son with a warning for him to use this great gift wisely, I lazily returned my attention back to the Daily Mail newspaper, which I occasionally browse to restore my faith in humanity.

Call it a sixth sense, or a miserable miser’s uncanny ability to know when someone else is spending his dollar, my attention was suddenly dragged screaming from the dizzying world of celebrities, and to the iPhone screen which appeared to be larger than life with bags, sacks, chests, and above all trunks of diamonds costing £69.99.

As my son’s tiny finger proceeded in slow motion to travel like an unstoppable force of nature towards the £69.99 icon, I screamed, “No!” But alas, all was in vain; the button had been pressed, and the point of no return had been reached.

I had made the cardinal error of forgetting what so many of these games rely on to turn a profit from – and that is there is a short timeframe after which you plug your password in when you can make additional purchases from the App Store without the bothersome grunt and groan of typing in aforesaid password again.

Needless to say, lessons had been learnt, and after gently reassuring my bewildered son that that fault was all mine, I then told him that in future we won’t buy diamonds or coins because when farmers get into the habit of expecting diamonds and money for nothing, without earning them, then the people who give you the diamonds will one day turn up out of the blue and take the farm away because you’ve forgotten the value of hard work.

I hope he understood.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)