It is a classic dilemma that has been around for decades: your child wants a shiny new toy, and they are going to start experimenting with various tactics to get their way.
Every parent fears that nothing you do will stop the child’s pleading, and you will break and give in.
At first, parents could avoid it if they didn’t go near the toy store. Then parents had to be wary of TV ads. Now even the games they have already bought for their child may ask for even more money.
When does it end? How can you come out ahead on cash and sanity? Let’s sort this out right.
What Payments to Expect
Games of today have a lot of potential in-game spending. It seems to be everywhere, and the cheaper the game was to get at first, the more likely spending will creep up in the game itself!
Let’s break down the major types of payments you may be asked about.
1. Subscriptions: The hallmark of the MMO (That’s Massively Multiplayer Online game, for those not in the know). A subscription is often relatively low per payment, but will occur month to month and will add up.
Games with subscriptions often have a drawn-out gameplay and no real ending, making players eager to keep coming back month-to-month. This can be problematic for your kid’s time and your eventual credit bill.
2. Loot Boxes: This insidious little grab bag may seem super harmless and even super pointless, depending on how invested you are in the game. The idea is that loot boxes contain random prizes, ranging from handy in-game upgrades to little aesthetic add-ons and fun side bits. Most can be earned by just playing the game, but almost every game that has them has a way to pay real money for more loot boxes.
Loot boxes have two significant issues. First, they are individually small but super easy to continue to purchase over and over again. Second, because of their random nature, they are akin to gambling. Many legislative bodies have raised severe concerns on potential gambling habits instilled by these items.
3. DLC and Digital Downloads: This category has become larger and larger in recent years. Almost any game can be bought right from the comfort of your home and downloaded right away. As well, many games offer DLC, or downloadable content, that add to the game you already have.
While these kinds of purchases can feel small and even expected, DLC can be sneaky in how it works. DLC often comes for full priced games, adding an extra $10, $20, or more onto the cost of a pricey game.
As well, the Season Pass can offer an enticing discount on DLC at the cost of paying for it all at once, often months before the content is even available. Paying for something you aren’t even positive on what you are getting can be a dangerous expectation.
Creating a Line in the Sand
So, how do you best control your child’s spending?
The first and best stopgap is to make sure your child does not have access to your credit card information.
While it can be tempting to let your child have even the smallest bit of free access to keep them from asking you constantly, the sheer amount of little potential charges can quickly get out of hand.
The second way to help keep things under control is understanding what your child would like to spend money on.
This can be a bit difficult, depending on how much gaming your child does and how much research you are willing to do. Pre-teens and older kids can also sometimes not want to share what they are doing with their parents. In the end, the more you know, the better you can judge what a worthy purchase is.
The last way requires the most involvement but can be the most rewarding. Teach your child the value of the money they ask you to spend.
If you only have a few small purchases, this might not be as easy as an example. If your child instead is looking for an endless stream of loot boxes, though, show them just how big of an impact the smallest of items can have when found in the dozens if not hundreds.
This can be most impactful if they have an allowance. Having them spending their own money on all their games can make them reconsider just what is worth it.
Dealing with the Fallout
Perhaps the worst-case scenario comes in need of a form of hard intervention.
Your child has been demanding more and more money for their games. They are refusing to back down on any thoughtful discussions and may even be reacting poorly to any form of punishment you may have tried.
If your child has gotten to the point of this dangerous behavior, it may be time for a mental health professional to intervene.
Know Your Child
Managing in-game payments with your child comes down to, in the end, how you raise and teach your child.
Video games and all their little microtransactions are not an inherent evil, but can instead be an invaluable lesson for both you and your child. All of these little items are just video game companies looking to make money. They are an issue that will eventually come to a head in the video game industry, one way or another.
In the meantime, the best way to get through this issue is to communicate and understand your child. Teach them the value of money early on, as well as an appreciation for what they have.
If you find that there is a barrier between you and your child on this matter and others, perhaps it is time to really focus on where your relationship is with your child.
Video games can be a delightful form of escapism, but if they are so dear to your child, perhaps there is something that they need escaping from. If video games are important to your child, then it is time for you to understand why.
Play with your child, embrace their world, and share it with them. It may not be an easy process, but a shared hobby and experience can do wonders for you both.
At the end, who knows, if you both enjoy it, that DLC or subscription can become a gift for you all to enjoy instead of another cost to keeping your child busy.4