PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate telephone services, says parents need to take control of their children’s smartphone bills and social media use - or face mobile phone bills that run into thousands of pounds.
The warning comes in a new report - Children as Connected Consumers - that’s been published today. It highlights two areas of particular risk: free apps and social media linked to smartphones.
Complaints to PhonepayPlus about children and apps are up by 300% from 2010/11 to 2011/12. The report warns that malware and in-app billing are particularly risky areas for children, either because children don’t appreciate when an initially free app is charging for additional services or when fake versions of popular games generate charges without the user’s knowledge. Trust and naïveté on social media platforms can also cause problems.
PhonepayPlus is offering a number of tips to parents of children who use smartphones and social media:
- Register the phone as a child’s phone with your mobile network before you give it to them.
- Talk to your mobile network about the controls available, for example a pay-as-you-go account or blocking certain services, and make sure you are clear and happy about what is being offered – for example ‘unlimited texts’ is highly unlikely to include premium rate texts.
- Teach your child to stop and think before they input their mobile number online or on a social media site – entering numbers online can give permission to charge that number and can compromise privacy.
- Know which apps your child is downloading and how much they cost, including the cost of upgrades in free apps.
- Use www.phonebrain.org.uk – it’s an interactive website about safe and secure phone use for children and young people as well as parents.
- Contact your mobile network straight away if you get an unexpectedly high bill or if your child is accessing inappropriate services. If you are unsatisfied, contact PhonepayPlus.
Paul Whiteing, Chief Executive of PhonepayPlus, said “Connected devices will define the age in which today’s children live and we are determined to ensure that they can receive the benefits while being protected from the risks. Smartphones in children’s pockets can burn holes in parent’s wallets, so we are working with partners across industry and other agencies to prevent this. This is a real challenge for parents and for us as a regulator but this plan meets that challenge head on.”
[Report: Children as Connected Consumers (pdf)]