Children’s In-App Spending is Under Control

Matthew Warneford

Earlier this month we published new research on children’s in-app purchasing habits. Despite fears that children are prone to excessive spending in mobile games our work has shown that parents have a greater hold on the virtual purse strings than many would believe.

The research shows that only 2% of kids have ever spent without their parent’s permission, and not one of the 500 kids surveyed had ever spent more than £10 on a single purchase. Furthermore, only 17% of children are ever allowed by parents to spend money in-game, and they rarely spend more than £2 in one go.

Parents in control

Of the 500 parents and children (aged 6 to 12) we surveyed, 71% of the children played mobile games, compared with 91% of parents. Parents seem pretty strict on their kids’ purchasing habits on these devices: only 17% allow their child to spend real money in-game. The data shows that such permissions increase as kids get older: the older the child, the more likely they are to conduct an in-app purchase.

In the vast majority of cases – kids who spend in-game are not going behind their parents’ backs.  87% of kids always ask their parents before making a purchase and 11% usually ask, meaning that only 2% have ever bought something without their parents’ consent.  Although 2% is still a worry, this does not appear to be a case of kids being out of control. Parents acknowledge this, and are quite trusting, too, as 41% of children who are allowed to make IAPs know their parent’s app store account details.

Micro Payments

However, this isn’t the whole story. One of the biggest criticisms levelled at the use of IAP in kids mobile games is the high price-point of some items, with some games offering single purchases costing up to £69.99. However, not one of the children involved in our research had ever made a single purchase greater than £10. That isn’t to say that kids have not spent more than £10 across a series of purchases whilst playing a game and we acknowledge that such spenders may not appear in a study of 500 children (such spenders are a minority). But the research shows that this is also rare: only 5% of those allowed to make IAPs have spent £10 in one session, which equates to only 1% of all children that play mobile games. Indeed, 49% of the 17% of kids allowed to make IAPs have at most spent between £1 and £5 in a single transaction.  Across all kids allowed to buy in-game the average single purchase is £2.07.

Top selling features

Over half (54%) of children who make IAPs say one of their favourite thing to buy in-game is new levels, like in Candy Crush Saga. 45% like to purchase cosmetic items, like clothing or furniture, to enhance their online identity – and these items are just as popular with boys as they are with girls. 25% choose to pay to speed-up in-game actions such as making crops grow. (The children who answered this question were given the opportunity to not select any of these options.)

Dubit CEO Ian Douthwaite, commented on the research saying: “It’s evident from our research that parents have greater control over their child’s in-game spending than reports would have us believe, and when children do spend, it is in moderation.

“Gaming has changed a lot over the past few years with price points dropping, and with children having greater access and choice. Rather than IAP being the villain, it appears that it provides a valuable revenue stream for games publishers without exploiting a child’s or a parent’s vulnerability.”

The research is available for download and to view below:

<iframe src="//" width="595" height="485" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" style="border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;" allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style="margin-bottom:5px"> <strong> <a href="//" title="Kids and parents on in-game spending IAP" target="_blank">Kids and parents on in-game spending IAP</a> </strong> from <strong><a href="" target="_blank">Dubit</a></strong> </div>

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