From an older sibling’s point of view – The App Store and being a better role model

Listen up parents – You just bought an iPod, iPhone, or iPad for your kid? Sorry, but like a game console, these devices require you to spend more money down the road. “But there’s a free section!” Yeah, well, like the saying goes “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” – A majority of the free apps that can be found on the app store are disguised as a cute simulator, but beyond that point they are just simply money grabs. You don’t want your kid to end up like my mother, who has racked up on over $1,000 worth of in-app purchases in the last few months. And it only takes a single game for that to happen.

In the last few weeks, in-app purchases have been the talk of the tech world, everyone pointing fingers at each other blaming either Apple or so called “lazy” parents. The truth is that it has to do with Apple not advertising parental controls enough, but it also has to do with parents giving their kids a device and letting them run off with it like any other toy. If you wouldn’t let your kid go to a friend’s house because you didn’t know their parents, why would you be letting them wander off to download apps and games which can pretty much lead to the same problems.

But this DOESN’T have to be a problem, and I urge you, as either as a parent or sibling of a younger brother or sister to do something about it. Get involved! You don’t have to be so straightforward about it, and you don’t even have to have an iOS device yourself, but you have to educate yourself about the OS and the apps that a kid can and will come across in the store.

When my brother got his own iPod Touch, I made it a priority to make sure that he not only got caught up in all the freemium junk out there, but also a majority of the social based games. I want him to have fun when he’s playing a game, but I also want him to use his brain to get through levels and solve problems. There’s games that get boring really fast, and then there’s the ones that keep you playing from start to finish.

I’ve also got him into using apps like Wolfram Alpha, Sky Motion, and The Weather Channel. It’s not just a thing to play games on, showing them the educational benefits of these devices are great too. He uses them all everyday too. Wolfram Alpha is particularly useful because it’s a nice general place to find everything, I especially like it for simple definitions.

Most review sites make a point of not showcasing apps that have excessive In-App purchases and very little actual gameplay, so they are a great starting point – Touch Arcade is my favorite and they have an app too. Apple tends to favor the nicer games too, so looking through the New and Noteworthy and special collections is another thing I’d recommend.

When you have all these nice games, the freemium ones become lame and uninteresting. That’s your goal right there. You don’t want to force them to do it the manual way by waiting 24 hours for energy and turning off In-App purchasing, you want them to not play that game altogether.

And if you’re the older sibling like I am, and you have a parent who doesn’t think we should be spending money on our devices (like my dad does), I again advise you to take control and provide some guidance. Teaching the value of money early on is a great thing, especially when there are so many companies trying to take advantage of it and targeting young people and oblivious adults such as my mother.