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Plugged In

Five-year-old boy spends $2,500 on game app in 15 minutes

Plugged In

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Danny Kitchen (Credit: BBC)

Danny Kitchen likes the iPad game Zombies vs. Ninja. No, strike that. Danny Kitchen LOVES Zombies vs. Ninja.

Danny's father Greg, on the other hand, isn't quite so fond of it.

The five-year old boy from Bristol in the U.K. cemented his Zombies vs. Ninja fan status recently by inadvertently running up £1,700 ($2,500) in in-app purchases after convincing his father to give up his password for the family iPad.

Zombies vs. Ninja is a free game, but like a lot of free apps, its developers make their money on microtransactions -- typically small purchases for things like weapons packs and game keys. Sometimes, though, the game makers bundle things together into larger, more expensive offerings. Such a bundle just happened to be what Danny kept selecting, not realizing it wasn't free.

"He was very upset when he realized what he had done," his mother Sharon told the BBC. "His brothers and sisters were telling him off, but of course he didn't know what he did - he's only five. To be honest, I'm not sure how he did it."

Apple, nicely enough, quickly refunded the money to the family when they heard of the incident.

Purchases normally require users to enter a password, but after Danny's father entered it for the game's initial free download, there was apparently a window where the apps could be bought without a request for the code to be re-entered. That shouldn’t have happened. Apple separated app and in-app purchase password requests two years ago after the first burst of accidental purchases by children.

In the U.S., apps that target children -- especially those with in-app purchases -- have become a significant enough issue that they’ve attracted the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.

"Although the two major U.S. mobile app stores provide some information and controls governing apps, all members of the mobile app ecosystem -- the app stores, the developers, and the third parties providing services within the apps -- must do more to ensure that parents have access to clear, concise and timely information about the apps they download for their children," the organization said last year.

As for Danny, he likely won't be repeating the mistake again soon. For one thing, he's still feeling guilty about making the mistake. But there's another, more important, preventative measure in place.

"I'm banned from the iPad now," he says.

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