Handing your iPad or iPhone to your child to let them play games may end up costing you real money.
Kevin Giesecke's 7-year-old daughter, Emily, loves to play shopping games and zoo games on her mother's iPad.
"We'll look at the games, and if it's a free game, we'll download it, no big deal," Giesecke said.
But it became a big deal when he got his iTunes bills totaling more than $400.
"Apparently we were buying virtual shoes, virtual dresses, virtual hairstyles," Giesecke said. But the "buying" was charging up real-world money.
With various apps, there are in-app purchases. It's a way for developers and Apple to make money from free or cheap downloads.
But those apps with the in-app purchases include a number of games geared for children.
In the course of playing the games, players are offered chances to buy things like gems, coins or stars to in order to feed their virtual zoo animals or put sprinkles on their virtual cupcakes.
Emily liked to "buy" fashions are the virtual mall to dress the virtual dolls and models, running up a significant tab. One purchase for 3,600 mall bucks cost $99.99 in real bucks.
How did it happen? When her dad downloaded the game and entered his iTunes password, his account remained open for a 15-minute window when more purchases could be made sans password.
And they are not the only ones. Families across the country complained and even sued when children ran up staggering bills buying things like $50 Smurfberries.
It got the attention of some in Congress who asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.
Last spring, Apple tweaked the software upgrade to try to remedy the issue. In iOS 4.3 or later, users have to type in the password in order to make the first in-app purchase. However, earlier software does not do this.
Apple does offer other ways to kid-proof buying sprees. Owners can set restrictions by going to settings on their iPhone, iPad or iTouch.
Under "general" there is a tab to "enable restrictions." Under that, owners can disable the in-app purchasing by turning it "off."
Giesecke said he thinks Apple should advise buyers of in-app purchasing and wants other parents to be warned to set the restrictions.
"Since this happened, I bet I've asked 30 people, 'What is an in-app purchase?' And, I haven't had anyone tell me they know what that is," he said.
An Apple spokesman said the company tries to work with parents when these things happen. Emily's charges were forgiven.