It’s a good time for parents to check for accounts (credit card, PayPal etc) which may be linked to micro transactions connected to their children’s devices namely: mobile platforms (Android and iOS), gaming consoles (Xbox, PS4, Nintendo) and PC games (laptop and desktop computers).
On 26th of February 2018 the ABC/ Triple J HACK reported the Queensland’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation stated that loot boxes “may constitute an interactive game within the definition provided in Queensland’s Interactive Gambling Act 1998” and are “currently investigating” if loot boxes breach State legislation.
Micro transactions are small purchases for in-game currency, extra play time, bonuses and ‘special’ or ‘limited edition’ content, such as characters or equipment. The costs can easily spiral if it is not monitored. Care needs to be taken as there have been instances of children spending $1000’s on their parent’s credit cards connected to game accounts. Micro transactions are not new and have been around awhile in many popular games (Minecraft) and new release games (star wars battle front 2). In November 2017 PC Gamer reported that while over $17 billion (AUD) had been spent globally on ‘paid for’ games, 28 million(AUD) had been raised by ‘free to play’ games.
Being ahead of the game: Account control links for Apple, Android, Xbox one, PlayStation, Nintendo and steam; and
Recovering funds with the ACCC and refund from App stores: Apple, Google Play, Microsoft, EA Games, Steam and Sony.
The best protection is to engage your child and take an interest in their online world. Check how each game works and what affect it has on your child. Talk with your child and show interest in where they are spending their time online. There are applications for balancing screen time which may provide you with a list of the time spent in each app, or game. You may then check out each ‘app’ starting with the most frequently accessed to determine if there are ‘loot boxes’ or if purchases can be made in those in those apps. Additional assistance may be provided by using the eSafety Commissioner’s guides (here) or Department of Communications and the Arts Classification Portal (here).
A quick guide for parents:
Determine where your child is spending their online time by physically monitoring your child, speaking with your child or using a app to assess where they are spending most time (search balancing screen time in app stores);
Assess each app for loot boxes or how they can spend money within the app;
Check age ratings via Australian Classification Portal (here); and