Lately, I have been hearing more alarming stories of parents discovering large amounts being charged to their credit card by their child, as a result of their video gaming spending. Most times these parents were unaware of the purchases and are caught off guard when they see these enormous amounts on their credit card bill. Some have found themselves in debt for thousands of dollars!
Children are clever in disguising how they will use credit. They may tell you they are purchasing something for school. And parents want to trust their child to do the right thing. Some children are being honest about the purchase they are making in a video game, but once they’ve done this once, then the credit card information remains on file, with easy access for more spending. Other children are stealing their parent’s credit card information to make these purchases.
A child can be easily manipulated into this buying power through video games, and aren’t calculating each transaction, nor are they aware of how quickly these amounts can add up. So, parents need to be one step ahead of them. They need to educate themselves on how this happens and how to prevent it, before they attain enormous debt.
The introduction to Loot Boxes in games were introduced between 2004 and 2007 and have gained in popularity. Think of these as a surprise treasure box. The box can contain something cosmetic, called Skins. These are virtual goods that look good on a character in a game, but have no direct influence on game play. These become signs of online status, but don’t enhance winning. The Loot Box can also contain a prize that will enhance a player in the game, but these are rare. A player doesn’t know what they are purchasing, so they are in effect taking a gamble, each time, at getting something worthy. And if you’re familiar with the concept of playing a casino slot machine, you will understand just how enticing it can be to continue adding funds in the hopes of winning big. This is no different.
There is a method used in video gaming (and gambling) called FREEMIUM which means Free + Premium. The game is designed with the odds stacked in the player’s favour, as long as they are playing for free. This means they will win more often during this phase of the game. The option will then progress to unlock features later that will ask the gamer to pay for items that will seem like they’ll enhance winning more. But of course, once a gamer is paying, the odds are in favour of the gaming site, and now the player loses more often.
When the element of gambling within a video game is introduced, over time players experience GAMBLER’S FALLACY which is the fantasy that if they won the last game, they believe they will definitely win again. And to a young, still-developing and impressionable mind, this can be very enticing. Add to this the excitement of the game and the hyper-reactivity a child is experiencing while playing, and poor impulse decisions can be made.
Parents, know your child and have an understanding of the types of games they are playing.
A game can contain no violence, sexual content, or inappropriate language, but can still contain gambling and addictive mechanisms within it. Video games are designed to keep a gamer engaged for as long as possible and ensure they return to play again and again. The gambling component is added to have the gamers believe they can buy their way to more success.
Talk about the games.
Sit with your child while they are playing. Have conversations about whether or not the game offers loot boxes or mechanisms needed to purchase to enhance winning. Make a decision about whether or not you will allow your child to play these types of games.
Is there an age minimum for purchases?
If you feel comfortable that your child can manage some online spending, be sure to check the age minimum for buying items on the game or the site.
How much will you allow your child to spend?
Set spending limits for your child and discuss budgeting and healthy spending.
NEVER GIVE YOUR CHILD YOUR CREDIT CARD OR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION!
Have your child use gift money, some of their allowance, or funds from a part-time job to purchase GOOGLE PLAY, X-BOX, PLAYSTATION, MASTERCARD, or VISA GIFT CARDS so that they can control their spending, and remove the risk of them stealing from others to play.
Use online tools that protect you from incurring credit card debt.
And remember, kids are clever. Use the Google Family Link Tool which gives you the ability to set various types of permission per person in your family. Use a password protection for each time a purchase is made, including in-app purchases billed by Google (like buying coins in games). This way, your child has to come to you and ask permission if they want to make credit card purchases outside of their budget and their gift cards.
Doing your due diligence as a parent by doing your own homework, having conversations with your child, and setting up safety features to protect your credit, will give you peace of mind while your child enjoys plays a moderate amount of video games.