A mother, who prefers to remain anonymous, has come out to warn other parents to keep a closer watch on their children’s online activities after her 12-year-old son rung up a shocking £900 debt while playing on Facebook’s virtual farm-management game, Farmville .
Farmville is an application add-on to your Facebook page, which allows you to run your own farm, with virtual animals, plants, complete with harvesting time and taking care of livestock. The farmer is given virtual coins when he first begins, which can be increased as he makes money off his farm as the game progresses. However, if a user does not want to wait for revenue generation, he can pay cash to hasten the game and buy the ‘latest’.
The child used up his own savings of about £288, and then resorted to his mother’s credit card, swiping enough times to use up about £625.
The game is created by a company called Zynga, who, when contacted, said that they did not think it fair to refund the money, because the child intentionally meant to spend it. “It appears that he knew what he was doing; his parents should be held responsible, not us.”, said a spokesperson for Zyngain an email interview.
The mother told The Guardian in an interview: “The total spend is about £905, but the credits are still rolling in. Facebook and Zynga will not refund anything as my son lives in my house. Facebook has disabled his account and Zynga has unhelpfully suggested I use password protection on computers in the future.”
HSBC, her credit card company, said that she could only claim a legal refund if she reported the action as a ‘crime’, which would result in him having a criminal record. “Obviously the idea of a stupid farm simulation jeopardising his future earnings is not something that I want to consider,” she told The Guardian.