22 April 2013

Day 216: Children Seduced to Spend Real Money on Games

"A schoolboy has unwittingly racked up a £2,000 credit card bill playing an online game on his grandfather’s iPad.

Six-year-old Will Smith was innocently playing the popular children’s video game Tiny Monsters until his grandfather Barry Slatter, 55, was contacted by the fraud squad.

The family was unaware of little Will’s huge spending spree until his grandmother tried to use the credit card at Tesco, only to have it declined."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205555/Schoolboy-massive-credit-card-playing-iPad-Tiny-Monsters-app.html#ixzz2RDDz9inE

"A 12-year-old boy accidentally ran up a £1,500 bill while playing Xbox Live - leaving his cash-strapped dad with no choice but to pick up the tab.

Sam Ghera's son Nik thought he was using up game points every time he 'improved' his characters while playing Call of Duty and Fifa.

However, with each click he was actually purchasing an online currency - which was draining money from his dad's account."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2171930/X-Box-Live-Boy-playing-Call-Duty-Fifa-ran-1-150-bill.html#ixzz2RDEEp7N7

More and more children's video games provide the option to buy additional features or short-cuts in the games with real money. Many of these games work with virtual currency as part of the game, but then switch to ask for real money for certain purchases. No need to say that children have a tendency to mix up imagination with reality. The difference between the two is simply not very obvious to them. Especially, when we're looking at Gaming Apps on touchscreen devices - where the characters of the game can actually be touched and moved by their finger. So - to expect a child to understand the difference between virtual money and real money - where real money is nothing more than numbers on a screen in the first place - is quite far-reaching.

So, what is the deal with these games where it is extremely easy for children to make real purchases on their parents' account? Are they trying to trick children to purchases they don't realize they're making - having children give money to a company - money which isn't even theirs? Having children doing the stealing for the company? Or is it about molding children to become the future generation of consumers? Where they learn to spend virtual money in a game and find that it is so easy - but then, as soon as real money comes in the picture, the parents deny them the right to buy what they want with real money. Then the child holds a grudge and they promise themselves that as soon as they have their own money, of which they can decide how they want to spend it - that they will always buy whatever they want to buy - creating the perfectly manipulable consumer. Because then, all that needs to be done is to spark a desire - and there you have it, an eager buyer.

Here is another example:

"Facebook has been accused of creating ‘tomorrow’s generation of problem gamblers’ by rolling out real money casino games.

Under a lucrative deal with online gaming company 888, the social networking giant will offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and games such as roulette and blackjack.

The move heralds a major expansion of its gambling sites.

Gamers will be able to place up to £500 on bets using a credit or debit card with promises of jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds.

These will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are more relaxed than in the US. Both Facebook and 888 insist they have safeguards to prevent minors from accessing the games.

These include checking the credit card details used against both their Facebook profile and the electoral register.

But there is nothing to stop children logging on to parents’ accounts and using card details already stored on the family computer. Already, Facebook users as young as 13 can use virtual slot machines on the website to win ‘credits’ – which have no monetary value.

But as soon as they turn 18, millions of children who use the social networking site will be bombarded with adverts for real money gambling games.

Facebook has three million UK users aged between 13 and 17. But a further one million are thought to be under 13 and pretending to be older.

Any of these could already be playing the ‘free’ slot and bingo games – which critics say form gambling habits because they simulate the thrill of hitting the jackpot.

More than a million people are already signed up to play 888’s free bingo game Bingo Island – although not all of these are UK based. They have to pay for online credits to play, but cannot win any real money back.
Concern: Critics worry users, including children using parents credit card details, will get hooked on the casino-style games

Yesterday 888 launched its first real money bingo application, with promises to roll out casino games. Critics fear many will be attracted to the new games to try to win money back, after experiencing the unrealistic odds offered on the free versions.

‘You win virtually every time you play one of the free games,’ said Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University.

‘Research has shown again and again that one of the biggest factors in developing problem gambling is playing free games online first. These children and teenagers today are the problem gamblers of tomorrow.’

He warned the deal with 888 could cause ‘the floodgates to open’ as gambling companies dive into the social media frenzy to make money. It is thought Facebook will take a 30 per cent cut of all bets placed.

In August, Facebook launched its first ‘real money’ gambling game with Bingo Friendzy, which offers bingo and slot machines. But the deal, done with Gamesys Group, is relatively small compared with the potential influx of gambling giants who could queue up to join Facebook if the venture proves to be profitable.

Itai Frieberger, chief operating officer of 888, said: ‘Our Facebook play for fun offerings have found a significant audience, and we are very excited by the opportunity real money gaming on Facebook provides.’ He said the company would prevent users who are under 18 on Facebook from even seeing the games.

A spokesman for Facebook said Bingo Friendzy players are subject to ‘strict account acceptance controls verifying their identity, and that they are over 18 and located in the UK.’ Gambling will not be promoted to Facebook members registered as under 18, it added.

Any of these could already be playing the ‘free’ slot and bingo games – which critics say form gambling habits because they simulate the thrill of hitting the jackpot."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2247087/Fury-Facebook-online-casinos-Social-network-tempting-young-gamble-new-betting-games.html#ixzz2RDWYaO3H

If capitalism, as it says, is all about the freedom of the individual and about making your own choices - then how come an army of consumer-addicts is being created?
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