Q. My son’s 11th birthday is coming up and my husband and I intend to get him one of those new game consoles. We’ve never had one in the house before and because of that I have a few questions and concerns. My main concern with giving my son a gaming console is that these days I’ve heard a lot about children taking their parents’ credit cards and making purchases in these games without their parents’ permission. Money doesn’t exactly grow on trees for us, and that’s why I’m somewhat apprehensive going forward. If my son does end up making a purchase without my permission, can I get refunded for it? Not to mention, I’m not even sure what games my son should be playing for someone his age. Do you have any advice?
A: It’s natural for a parent to be concerned about their child and video games, especially this day and age, so let’s help you out.
For starters, if you want to know what sort of content you should be aware of when purchasing a video game, you can check its rating by the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB) on the front of the game’s box. The ESRB label tells you the suggested age range audience for a game (E=Everyone, T=Teens, M=Mature). The rating on the back provides broader details on why that game has a certain rating i.e., a “T” rating might have violence or foul language in it.
Electronic purchases made by children, especially in video games, has become a large issue in recent years. There are many ways that you can avoid this from happening. The most obvious is to not let your children get their hands on your credit card(s), but here are a few other suggestions:
▪ Password-protect the console. Your child can still play games on it, but many consoles have an option to require a password for things like making purchases, or even to play games above a certain ESRB Rating. To do either, your child would need you to input your password.
▪ On some consoles you can create a “child account” that has limited access to certain features, namely, being unable to make any online purchases.
▪ You could choose to not store your credit card information on the console.
▪ It also wouldn’t hurt to consult some online FAQs or forums for more tips.
Every year, the Better Business Bureau receives a good number of complaints from parents against game companies for not refunding purchases made by children without their knowledge. It’s important to understand that game companies are not at fault for these unauthorized purchases and are well within their rights to not provide refund, especially if it is indicated in their terms of usage or refund policy. Rather, it is up to the parents to prevent these purchases from happening in the first place. Kids can be sneaky, so you always have to be one step ahead.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.