Yes, Timmy, Spending Money In Virtual Worlds Ends Up With A Real World Bill

from the funny-money dept

NetSafe, New Zealand's Internet safety group, warns that parents may be shocked to learn that their children's purchases in virtual worlds rack up real world charges on their credit cards. They warn that in virtual worlds like Second Life, it is possible to quickly run up huge credit card bills -- real money is spent when buying real estate, avatars, and clothing in the game. NetSafe used to discourage youths from spending any money in these virtual worlds, but has since changed their policy. They reason that while they might not understand the need for someone to buy a virtual good, it is not their place to judge where people spend their money. They stress instead that the most important lesson is for parents to set limits on their children's spending habits, but this seems pretty much like common sense parenting, and not something specific for online spending. Then again, our increasingly digital world has made it more difficult to teach children the value of a dollar. And with kids spending thousands of dollars on real estate that only exists in cyberspace, that lesson may get even harder to teach.


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    Brad, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 4:59pm

    I think the problem is that parents often don't realize that the charges will extend beyond a monthly fee, and happily let their kids go to town. Think about XBOXLive - the same card you pay your $50/year with for service can rack up hundreds of dollars in downloads, player icons, etc. It's not surprising that parents are amazed to see hundreds of dollars in charges on what was supposed to be a $6/mo account.

     

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    Nick (profile), Oct 25th, 2007 @ 5:51pm

    It sounds like NetSafe was more shocked than anyone to find out that people spend real money in virtual worlds, and then announced that the sky was falling.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 5:58pm

    I'm still trying to come to grips with the idea of giving your kids credit cards. Anyone that stupid gets what they deserve!

    If you're going to sign your kids up to some service you should be smart enough to look into the possibility that they can keep spending on it without you knowing about it.

    Yet another story of people too lazy or stupid to research what they're doing and getting ripped off by big business out to make a buck at any cost!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 3:02am

      Re:

      "Yet another story of people too lazy or stupid to research what they're doing and getting ripped off by big business out to make a buck at any cost!"

      So lazy or stupid people are at fault or 'big business'.... You do know businesses exist to make money right? If someone is so stupid that they spend until they are broke, how is that the fault of the business?

       

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    Overcast, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 6:48pm

    Yeah, I agree - what else do you expect when giving your kid access to spend money off your credit card.

    I realize some games link to a credit card account, but alas - that's where a pre-paid card comes in.

     

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    Tempest, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 8:45pm

    surprise?

    Credit Cards + Kids + Intangibly VIRTUAL Items = really big spending bill just waiting to happen.

    That's really all one needs to say about this.

     

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    ub, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 10:52pm

    Pyramid scheme

    So is Second Life the latest Ponzi Scam? Sounds like it to me.

     

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    Bob, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 11:05pm

    Kids & virtual spending

    This is really no different than the tremendous cellular bills racked up by the kids sending 4000-6000 text messages in a month, and mom & dad fainting when they get the bill.

    The parents who give their kids this kind of spending ability, be it virtual world or cellular, need to get their heads examined. Very few kids who receive phones/virtual world accounts have the real-world experience to allow them to make judicious use of these things, and subsequently wind up racking up astronomical bills.

    As Earl Pitts would say, "Wake up America!"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 2:42am

    Shocked!

    What, you mean if I give little Timmy my credit card and send him off into a virtual toy store he just might spend my money?
    I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

     

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    Parents not Parenting

    Problem #1 - Some parents have no "tech knowledge" and their tweens lie about why they need to use the parents credit card. These type of parents think they are helping their kids with something "educational" on the computer.

    Problem #2 - Some parents these days are too busy, lazy or stupid to raise kids correctly and never should have had any to begin with.

    Problem #3 - Some kids don't have any respect for their parents or other "adult types" because of Problem #2.

    Problem #4 - Businesses target kid's because they know they will get the money somehow to buy their product or service. Just a fact, not a complaint.

    Solution - None.

     

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    Ferin, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 5:00am

    Real world money?

    Uhm, just as a point, I've acutally played second life. While it is possible to use real world money to by in game currency, it's not a necessity. Plenty of people have and still continue to make their fortunes relying purely on in game oppurtunities. The only real money you spend is if you wanna buy and account to buy land, the rest of the stuff you can get on your own. And honestly, SL is pretty damn cheap cost per year.

     

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      Brad, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 10:35am

      Re: Real world money?

      Well, even people who "make their fortunes" in second life (a highly dubious claim - look into it further than the press releases by Lindon Labs), the point is that SOMEONE is paying real money somewhere along the lines, or else these fortunes wouldn't be amassing.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2007 @ 4:54pm

      Re: Real world money?

      Plenty of people have and still continue to make their fortunes relying purely on in game oppurtunities.[sic]
      Ohhh, what are we playing, the Name-the-Stupid-Myth game? Here are a couple more for you: "Any child can grow up to be the President of The United States" or "Most rich people got that way through hard work". Stupid myths abound.

       

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    Count Darling, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 7:00am

    Online sites make it easy to screw up

    When I got my son an iPod, I knew that came with a need to have an iTunes account. So I set me up with an iTunes account and give his account an allowance. So His account has no credit card on it and he can only spend what I give him. Apple was smart to allow this. Other sites may not be so easy to manage.

    I gave up the text messaging battle with my kids - I got the unlimited texting package for all my phones. The bad news is its more money out of my pocket - the good news is my bill is the same month to month.

     

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    Zoe, Oct 29th, 2007 @ 2:04pm

    Why do kids have credit card numbers?

    Wait, back up: Why do kids have their parents' credit card numbers at all, ever, for anything? I don't want to hear one complaint from any adult that willingly gave their child (of any age, including teenagers) a credit card number. Bed, made, lie.

    If they really "need" a credit card, get them their own bank account and a debit card. Or, get them a Visa cash card with a set amount of money that goes away, and look online to see where it's being spent. It's not hard.

    And no, I didn't grow up in any era before credit cards were widely used. It didn't equate to my parents GIVING THEIR CREDIT CARD NUMBERS TO MY BROTHER AND I, however. Stupidity. They got us debit cards when we were about 13, we made deposits, we used them, we each overdrew our accounts once or twice, and we learned - and no, my parents didn't pay the fees or bail us out. Good to learn before we got to college.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2007 @ 8:06pm

      Re: Why do kids have credit card numbers?

      They got us debit cards when we were about 13, we made deposits, we used them, we each overdrew our accounts once or twice, and we learned - and no, my parents didn't pay the fees or bail us out.
      Which ever adult cosigned for your account was legally responsible. Banks aren't allowed to hold children legally liable for debts(fees owed).

       

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