The Difference Between Bad and Illegal

by Moms With Apps on September 17, 2012

An article came to my attention from the Australian Business News about “kids racking up huge bills on mobile games”. The story covers a nine year old girl who downloaded hundreds of dollars in virtual items to her parents’ account. I encourage parents to read it just to be aware of the issues. The full article is available here ==> The consumer group represented in the article calls the situation a scam, and advocates for urgent regulation.

One of the apps being discussed has a girls’ shopping and dating theme, and is rated 12+ for content unsuitable for children under 12. When I looked at the app description, I was able to locate the Top In App Purchases which ranged from $1.99 to $49.99 for items like cash and coins. Also in the app description were  phrases like “Are you addicted to shopping? Do you dream of being a supermodel? Love to date guys? Become the top girl!”

Given I have a 9 year old and this app is rated 12+, my answer is “No, we don’t dream of being supermodels and we are too young to date guys.” For our family, this app would be a bad choice. By taking the time to read the app description, I was able to gather enough information to make a decision about the app’s appropriateness.

If the app slipped by, and I was confronted with a large bill, would taking someone to jail make up for my lack of vigilance? Bad content will exist as long as the Internet is alive, and my role as a parent is to stay informed (learning lessons along the way).

I think the issue here is whether I have enough tools to stay informed, and if those tools are simple or tricky.

I’m especially interested in what others think. What is your view on the difference between a bad business practice and an illegal activity? Those viewpoints could have quite an impact on how the mobile marketplace shapes up, and it’s going to take a group effort to shape it appropriately.

Thanks Esa Helttula of  for taking the time to share this article in our developer forum. Knowing what’s controversial helps the content creators make better apps. 

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