In App Purchases: Tiny Monsters?

In App Purchases: Tiny Monsters?

Parents are all too aware of the never-ending solicitation of in-app purchases of many games and apps. Could this actually be an opportunity for parents to teach money management?

My 6-year-old son is completely obsessed with a virtual world app called Tiny Monsters. All his friends are, too. And while his friends’ parents feed their kids’ iTunes accounts, enabling these tiny monsters to quickly grow into bigger ones, my son is stuck waiting and waiting for them to grow without the added boost of an in-app purchase.

When I brought up the idea of allowing our son to spend his $1 per week allowance on his favorite game, my husband was flatly against it. His reason — that this virtual spending would nix any potential learning about money management — seemed valid at first. If our son doesn’t hold the dollar in his hand and pass it over to a cashier or slip coins into a slot, how will he understand that the money is no longer his?

But were we being old-fashioned? Isn’t our society moving toward digital payments for everything? When was the last time we used actual cash for anything? And doesn’t our son need to learn how to manage money in whatever form it comes?

Another mom suggested we were being control freaks by dictating what our son could spend his allowance on. “Isn’t the point of allowance to let him make his own decisions about how he spends his money?” she asked. Good point, I thought, but I wouldn’t let him spend his allowance on guns or 10 pounds of candy. Is this different?

Related: 21 apps that teach kids real-life skills [INSERT LINK]

Ultimately, we decided to hold off on letting him use his allowance on the game. It’s not a forever decision, but for now, given the impulsive nature of his personality, we want him to have a bit more experience with spending on tangible goods first. And hopefully he’ll soon be mature enough to think through his financial decisions with care, rather than be at the mercy of a game designed to entice him to spend, spend, spend.

What to Do?

Advice from Drs. Bill and Ginger Bercaw:


 Do.  Talk with your spouse about each of your perspectives on in-app purchases. Make sure you are both on the same wavelength.  This is really important.


 Do.  Talk with your children about their experiences regarding inn-app purchases, being sensitive to their wants (which are often very strong) as well as clear about your limits.  Make the time.

Life Lessons

 Do.  For children age 5 and above, explain how the game-maker’s job is to try to persuade players to spend their money.

What NOT to Do?


Do Not allow your children to have your iTunes password or make in-app purchases without your consent

MPP Expert Resources:

  • How Can Parents Limit Kids’ In-App Purchases?  [INSERT LINK]
  • What are the Best Parental Control Apps for your child’s phone?  [INSERT LINK]
  • A Step-by-Step Guide to Tackling the Challenge of In-App Purchases  [INSERT LINK]


Posted on

July 10, 2016

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