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Jerome Schultz Headshot

Apple Bails Out Thieving Little Kids

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When I was a little kid, I slipped a bag of M&M's into my jacket pocket. When I came outside, I confessed this to my big brother, who, instead of accepting my offer to share these little colored morsels, looked at me in disgust and told me that I'd have to take them back and tell the manager what I had done. Doing anything less would get me reported to my mother and father. Swallowing sobs and wiping away tears I fessed up to the manager, apologized, and left in shame -- promising never to filtch again. Lesson learned.

But let's fast forward to today: A kid gets a password from his mom, and in addition to ordering the 99-cent app that mom approved, the kid realizes that he can keep clicking the "buy now" button until Apple shuts him off at 15 minutes. The result? $32.5 MILLION (yes, that's right) in "unauthorized" purchases (including the $2,600 sale that has become lore).

Know what I think? Even though they were responding to a lawsuit from the FTC, Apple did the right thing by refunding this money. But aren't we missing the point here? Isn't Apple taking a big PR and financial hit (it will certainly cost them to make these refunds and pay those legal fees to make this all go away) because of kids who have violated their parents' trust and stolen from them?

Kids under age 5 or 6 might not have understood the ethics or the mechanics of this game, but what the heck are they doing shopping online without parents looking on? Kids age 7 or older, having reached the "age of reason," know exactly what's going on here. Ignorance is no defense.

So what are parents around the world (apparently this is a global problem) saying to their kids about this? Is there a consequence for these itty-bitty petty larcenists? How has this event affected the buying habits of young kids and their parents' role in this underage commerce? And (my main concern here), why aren't the parents watching what kind of apps or programs their kids are buying?

In the words of Desi Arnaz, they've got some 'splainin' to do.