12-year-old Goes Into Farmville Credit Debt


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Though online games like World of Warcraft have gotten plenty of bad press for being “addictive,” at least the financial ramifications are limited to $14.99 a month – well, unless you (a) lose your job because you play too much, or (b) break the game’s TOS and pay for your gold.

So what about the new craze of casual games, particularly the ones played on Facebook, that aren’t pay-per-month but rather pay-for-content? You may recall that there have been some issues with scam advertisers in Farmville and other Zynga games, a side effect of the business model that allows players to earn coins to purchase content by signing up for free trials from advertisers. But another way of getting more and more Farmville stuff (like land, crops, animals, etc.) is just to pay for it – e.g., $5 for 7,500 coins.

But how much virtual farming goods could you possibly buy in a couple of weeks? Try £900 – or about $1400 USD. A UK woman discovered last month that her 12-year-old son first emptied his own savings to pay for about a third of that, and then ran up the rest of the debt on her credit card. And this was only in about two weeks, starting on March 14 and going on until the end of the month when the mom discovered the charges.

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much the mom can do about it, since the only way she would be able to get her money back from the credit card company would be to report it stolen (and I guess she doesn’t think her son deserves that hard of a lesson). Facebook suspended the kid’s account, and Zynga helpfully suggested she try using passwords on her computer.

It was unclear from the media report whether the kid stole his mom’s credit card without her knowledge or if he’d just used it for something she hadn’t given him permission for – I’d assume the former, since giving a 12-year-old a credit card number doesn’t seem like a great idea. And speaking of his age, it is actually against Facebook’s TOS for anyone under 13 to have an account.

Whether this says something about Zynga’s business practices in general, I suppose it serves as a cautionary tale to parents. Kids (typically) don’t have a great head for finances, especially when what you’re buying is virtual – heck, there are plenty of adults playing games like Farmville that find themselves surprised by how much it costs. And this kid’s reason for spending so much? “They had brought out good stuff that I wanted.”





12 Responses to 12-year-old Goes Into Farmville Credit Debt

  1. As this happened in the UK I am glad to announce that being a minor the kid was not old enough to make a valid contract. Therefore unless the court decides that the Farmville purchases were necessities, which considering children that age aren’t even supposed to be on Farmville is unlikely, the contract is voidable. This is because minors are apt to get taken advantage of in this way so the law is set up to protect them. If the woman fails to get her money back then her lawyer should hang his head in shame and resign.

  2. As this happened in the UK I am glad to announce that being a minor the kid was not old enough to make a valid contract. Therefore unless the court decides that the Farmville purchases were necessities, which considering children that age aren’t even supposed to be on Farmville is unlikely, the contract is voidable. This is because minors are apt to get taken advantage of in this way so the law is set up to protect them. If the woman fails to get her money back then her lawyer should hang his head in shame and resign.

  3. As this happened in the UK I am glad to announce that being a minor the kid was not old enough to make a valid contract. Therefore unless the court decides that the Farmville purchases were necessities, which considering children that age aren't even supposed to be on Farmville is unlikely, the contract is voidable. This is because minors are apt to get taken advantage of in this way so the law is set up to protect them. If the woman fails to get her money back then her lawyer should hang his head in shame and resign.

  4. Harry, if the credit card *belonged* to the child that might be the case.
    It doesn’t- it belongs to the parent who has the responsibility for both her child AND her credit card – as unpopular as that may be right now.
    And kids do these things, which is why we DON’T give them credit cards- and if mom didn’t care to supervise, well then she has learned a valuable lesson- one that has actually come at a reasonable price, considering what he could be costing her later in life.
    Hopefully she will take it in stride, parent more wisely, and both will be the better for the experience.

  5. Harry, if the credit card *belonged* to the child that might be the case.
    It doesn’t- it belongs to the parent who has the responsibility for both her child AND her credit card – as unpopular as that may be right now.
    And kids do these things, which is why we DON’T give them credit cards- and if mom didn’t care to supervise, well then she has learned a valuable lesson- one that has actually come at a reasonable price, considering what he could be costing her later in life.
    Hopefully she will take it in stride, parent more wisely, and both will be the better for the experience.

  6. Harry, if the credit card *belonged* to the child that might be the case.

    It doesn't- it belongs to the parent who has the responsibility for both her child AND her credit card – as unpopular as that may be right now.

    And kids do these things, which is why we DON'T give them credit cards- and if mom didn't care to supervise, well then she has learned a valuable lesson- one that has actually come at a reasonable price, considering what he could be costing her later in life.

    Hopefully she will take it in stride, parent more wisely, and both will be the better for the experience.

  7. Isn’t this an irrelevant question?
    The kid’s 12. He’s not old enough to be on Facebook in the first place. His parents should be watching his internet time more closely. As well as teaching him that it’s rude to go in other people’s wallets/purses/bags without permission and wrong to use a credit card without permission because it doesn’t belong to him and is therefore stealing.
    Parenting fail.

    • Massive parenting fail. Too bad all the other ones out there didn’t come with financial costs to them as well.

  8. Isn't this an irrelevant question?

    The kid's 12. He's not old enough to be on Facebook in the first place. His parents should be watching his internet time more closely. As well as teaching him that it's rude to go in other people's wallets/purses/bags without permission and wrong to use a credit card without permission because it doesn't belong to him and is therefore stealing.

    Parenting fail.

    • Massive parenting fail. Too bad all the other ones out there didn't come with financial costs to them as well.