Here’s the rundown:
My mother, because my niece is now officially a Middle Schooler, decided in a fit of generosity and proudness, to buy my niece an iPod Touch, which she’d been begging for for MONTHS.
She didn’t, however, do any research into actually *owning* an iPod Touch, which meant that she didn’t realize that owning it required my 12-year-old niece to create an Apple ID, which requires her to put in somebody’s credit card information.
So when the niecelet told Grandma that they needed a credit card in order to let her set up an account, Grandma said, “hell no,” and thought no more of it.
Then she got her credit card bill. And lo, the niecelet did FIND her credit card, and go more than a little bit crazy on the App Store. With two separate cards.
So now, the tech-savvy aunt gets called, and I get to spend my weekend cleaning up a big old mess.
Here’s my problem with all this:
When I called the Apple Store, to complain about the fact that there’s no actual option to CONFIRM that an Apple ID belongs to a child and set restrictions on it, I was advised to simply get her an iTunes gift card instead of using a credit card (and where in the UI for setting up an account is that even mentioned?). Or, alternatively, I could set her up with a pre-paid credit card that I keep adding money to as rewards for good behavior. Good idea, if she was 13; most pre-paid cards require the user to be at least 13.
Both of these are excellent suggestions, and ones I had thought of when I was planning on buying her a Touch (before Mom decided to do it herself). However, there’s still a single, epic fail at work here:
Apple does not bother checking to see whether you are a CHILD before you set up an Apple ID. Or rather, it does, but it makes it way too easy to lie about your age.
And if you are a parent, setting up an Apple ID for a child, it does nothing to help you monitor and create restrictions on the account. For example, if I set up restrictions on the Touch (which, believe me, I have), all I can do is disable the ability to access iTunes or the App Store altogether; there’s no way to, for example, allow her to download all the free apps she wants, but require a passcode that I set up to download any paid apps. And they sure as hell don’t make it easy to figure out how to remove your credit card information from a given account, which is evidenced by the over 5 million results for “removing credit card information from iTunes.”
Really, Apple. This is serious s***
I have no problem admitting that I’m a rabid Apple fangirl. But on this topic, they have majorly, epically failed. I love the idea of changing the way that we buy music and apps; but really, if you’re going to do that, it’s pretty much common sense to recognize that kids are consumers too — and give parents a way to easily (note, I said easily) prevent their kids from bankrupting them on Justin Bieber mp3s and multiple seasons of a TV show you’ll never watch.
Here’s a simple way to do it:
The moment you enter your date of birth into the Apple Store, and it shows that you’re less than 16 years old, don’t require a credit card.
Their current practice — simply telling you that you “don’t meet the minimum age requirement,” is the same kind of stupid cop out that Facebook uses. Both of them want to pretend they don’t have to take responsibility for what tweens do on the service. There’s nothing that will prevent a kid from simply lying about her age, or that requires someone to actually verify their age somehow. So, my 12 year old niece simply pretends she was born a couple of years earlier, and hilarity ensues.
Let’s face it: if you make a fun product, parents will want to buy it for their kids. And not all parents have the technical prowess to deal with all the crazy wrenches Apple throws you to simply use their products. Yes, it’s easy(ish) for someone who is used to everything that Apple makes, but for someone who just wants to own an iPod, there’s a ridiculous, and DANGEROUS, learning curve that Apple has decided to throw in the works for any kid who gets one of these things for Christmas.
And yes, I’m COMPLETELY fired up right now.