1 in 10 young people accidentally spent money on in-app purchases – survey shows

Posted on 14 July 2015

The new figures come as young people across the UK enter Childnet Film Competition to educate their peers about apps and mobile purchases.

[14th July 2015]  Results from a survey of over a thousand 11-18 year olds launched today by UK charity Childnet reveals that 12% of respondents have accidentally spent money on an in-app purchase. The findings come as winners of the Childnet Film Competition were announced at a showcase event at the BFI in London yesterday. Childnet teamed up with regulator PhonepayPlus to add a new ‘PhoneBrain’ category to their national competition, inviting young people to create short films to educate their peers about potential app traps and avoiding unexpectedly incurring high bills. Taking home the top prize in the PhoneBrain category was Willow Bank School, a secondary school in Leicester.

Young people’s experiences of in-app purchases

Findings from an online survey by Childnet of over a thousand 11-18 year olds published today explores young people’s experiences with apps and in-app purchases. The report reveals that downloading apps is a common experience among 11-18 year old respondents, with 95% saying they had downloaded an app. It emerged that spending money on apps is less common, but nonetheless, over half of 11-18 year old respondents (59%) said they had paid for an app and over a third (37%) said they had spent money on an in-app purchase.

A significant minority of the young people responding to the survey said they have accidentally spent money on in-app purchases. 12% said they have accidentally spent money on an in-app purchase, while 7% said they have received a big phone bill has a result of accidental in-app purchases. Young people gave a number of reasons to explain why they were caught out, such as: not understanding that in-app purchases were ‘real money’; accidentally clicking on the purchase; and not realising the payment would go through automatically with stored passwords.

As young people explained in the survey:

  • "I just wanted to get this character on a game and I didn't realise that it cost money” (Male, 11-14 years)

  • "I was about 9 or 10 and didn't realise that the App Store took money straight out of parents’ bank account." (Female, 11-14 years)

  • "Clicked what I thought was to go to next level but it was to buy more lives." (Female, 15-18 years)

  • "I clicked on it to get one and it was taking forever so I kept clicking on it and ended up spending over £100." (Male, 11-14 years)

The report published today provides recommendations to companies who create apps and educational tips for parents and young people. This advice, along with the films created by young people as part of the Childnet Film Competition will help educate young people about the risks they can face when using apps.

Young people take the lead in educating their peers

Childnet teamed up with regulator PhonepayPlus to run a national competition to invite young people to create short films to educate their peers about potential app traps and avoiding unexpectedly incurring high bills.

As Evie and Amy, two of the young people involved in the competition, said:

“We were excited and decided to enter, making a short film about phone bills and phone costs. We both enjoyed the editing mostly, and using green-screen to make it look more professional. During the project we learnt about how you can get hidden bills in apps and in game charges which you often don’t expect. We really enjoyed taking part and hope that we have a simple message that we put over in a style that makes a serious warning come across in a more informal and even humorous way. We are really glad we took the time to make our short film!”

Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, said:

"The internet is a tremendously powerful tool that is changing the way our children learn and stay in touch but we cannot afford to be complacent about the risks - the dangers of the virtual world are no less pressing than those in the real world.”

“But it isn’t just a problem for parents, schools have a role to play too which is why we have put online safety at the heart of the curriculum to ensure children are given the information and tools they need to protect themselves online.”

“And it’s through initiatives like the Childnet Film Competition that we can make sure children really harness all the opportunities that the internet provides while at the same time giving them the information and tools they need to protect themselves online. Well done to all of those who have taken part.”

As Jo Prowse, Acting Chief Executive from PhonepayPlus, said:

“PhoneBrain educates young people about premium rate services including the costs involved and how to make use of them without getting charged more than expected. This year by working with Childnet we have been able to engage with even more young people on how they can use their smartphones safely and confidently without unexpectedly incurring high bills.”

In addition, a further two categories for primary and secondary schools explored how to be a good online friend and how we can help to create a better internet.

The winners of the sixth annual Childnet Film Competition were announced at a private screening held at the BFI Southbank yesterday. Joined at the event by industry guests from Disney, Vodafone and the BBC, the winning schools and the other finalists will now see their films used as internet safety resources to educate other young people about how to use the internet safely. 

As Childnet Education Projects Officer, Becky Nancarrow, said:

“This year’s film competition has been truly inspiring! Yesterday we were able to celebrate the achievements of the 9 finalists who have met the challenge set by the competition amazingly well, addressing many of the key issues young people face online in a fun, creative and positive way. But it doesn’t end there!  Now the young people’s films will have an even wider impact, as the films become resources for schools and youth groups to use to educate young people about staying safe online”.  

The winning films from the Childnet Film Competition can be viewed here: http://www.childnet.com/resources/film-competition/2015

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