How to Turn Off In-App Purchases on the iPad

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How to Turn Off In-App Purchases

Kids using an iPad
Thijs Knaap / Flickr

The ability to do in-app purchases on your iPad and iPhone has been a real boon to both developers and consumers, with the sharp rise in freemium games due mainly to the ease of in-app purchases. But for families sharing an iPad, especially families with younger kids, in-app purchases can lead to a rather nasty surprise once the iTunes bill comes in the email, which is why it can be important to turn off in-app purchases on your iPad or iPhone if one of your kids uses it to play games.

In fact, a study unveiled that in-app transactions account for 72% of app revenue, and parents have found that some of this revenue is generated by small kids playing a seemingly free game. This has led to a class-action suit being filed because of the in-app game currency found in many free games.

So how do you turn off in-app purchases on your iPad?

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How to Turn Off In-App Purchases

Before you can turn off in-app purchases, you must enable iPad restrictions. These parental controls allow you to restrict access to certain features on the iPad.  In addition to disabling in-app purchases, you can disable the app store completely, set up a download restriction using an age-based restriction to allow your child to only download appropriate apps, and also restrict access to music and movies.  

First, you need to open the iPad's settings. These are accessed by touching the icon that looks like gears. Once in the settings, choose General settings from the menu on the left and scroll down until you see Restrictions on the right. (I've highlighted it in the photo above.) 

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How to Enable iPad Restrictions

When you turn on restrictions by tapping the button at the top of the screen the iPad will ask for a passcode.  This is a four-digit code similar to an ATM code that will allow you to make changes to the restrictions in the future.  Don't worry, you will be asked to enter the passcode twice, so you won't be locked out because of a typo.

The passcode does not "override" restrictions, it simply allows you to change the restrictions at a later date. For example, if you turn off app downloads, you simply won't see the app store on the iPad.  And if you turn off in-app purchases and then attempt to purchase something inside of an app, you will be notified that in-app purchases have been turned off.

This passcode is also different than the passcode used to unlock the device.  If you have an older child, you can allow them to know the passcode for using the iPad and keep the passcode for restrictions separate so that only you have access to the parental restrictions. 

Once you have enabled the iPad restrictions, you will have access to turn off in-app purchases.

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How to Disable In-App Purchases

Now that you have parental restrictions turned on, you can easily disable in-app purchases. You may need to scroll down the screen a little bit to located in-app purchases in the Allowed Content section. Simply slide the On button to the Off setting and in-app purchases will be disabled.

Many of the restrictions offered in this section function implicitly, which means disabling app purchasing removes the app store completely and turning off the ability to delete apps removes the little X button usually displayed when you hold your finger down on an app. However, apps that offer in-app purchases will still do so if you turn off in-app purchasing. Any attempt to purchase something within an app will be met with a dialog box that informs the user that these purchases have been disabled.

If you are disabling in-app purchases because you have a small child in the household, there are several other useful settings, including the ability to restrict apps based on the parental rating of the app.

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