Consider how to prevent children from spending without parental knowledge

There is an increasing number of problematic cases in which children spend large amounts of money on online games on smartphones without the knowledge of their parents and guardians. It is necessary for families to set rules for use in advance.

According to the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, the number of consultations regarding children who paid large sums of money for things such as online games exceeded 4,200 cases in the last fiscal year, the largest number ever.

These days, online games are often free at the start but users are asked to pay certain fees as the game proceeds. Per consultation case, the average amount of money spent is said to be as much as ¥300,000.

According to a government survey, the majority of elementary, junior high and high school students ages 10 and older use the internet, and more than 90% have their own smartphones. The number of consultations may be only the tip of the iceberg.

There have also been notable cases of parents lending their smartphones to their children, who then use credit card information that is registered on the phone. In addition, children have changed passwords registered on smartphones without permission and made payments in online games.

Sometimes accounts and credit card information are left on devices that parents no longer use, and that information is used. There also was a case in which a child had heard from a friend how to use fingerprint authentication, which is needed to make a payment, and had registered their own fingerprint.

There are a growing number of sites and videos online that teach people how to change passwords and register fingerprints.

For children growing up in a digital society, it is probably easier than adults think to use information obtained from friends and online to operate a device.

Parents often learn of the fact that their children have paid large amounts of money only after the bills arrive. The same thing can happen with online shopping, for example.

Contracts involving a large sum of money made by minors without parental consent can generally be rescinded. However, it is important to note that if it cannot be proven that the act was done by a child, the money may not be refunded.

When a child is allowed to have their own smartphone, it is important that they do not register any information that could lead to payments being made.

It is also essential to use smartphone functions to set the device so that parental approval is necessary to make a payment.

When parents and children share a smartphone, it is important that children use it within sight of their parents as much as possible and to make sure that notifications are received when payments are made.

Getting completely absorbed in online games also increases the risk of becoming addicted to them. When handing a smartphone to a child, it is important to make rules in keeping with the family’s situation.

Schools should also teach children how to use smartphones appropriately from time to time. Additionally, game companies should promote measures to prevent children from making excessive payments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 18, 2024)