With Christmas around the corner, you've been shopping for that perfect gift for the kids.  As tablet computers and smart phones have become more affordable, you may be going for “Parent of the Year” with this awesome gift.

But beware!  It may cost you more than you think!

After you’ve purchased a tablet or smart phone, it is pretty useless without any apps.  So you create an account to download them.  Unfortunately, a credit card is required for most of these accounts, even if you are only purchasing free apps.

In the hands of a responsible adult, this is not a problem. But remember, you didn’t buy this for yourself.

The Internet is full of stories from parents whose children spent a small fortune on apps and in-app purchases.  Those $2.99 apps add up when Junior downloads enough of them.

What are in-app purchases?  Some apps, especially games, offer extras that have to be purchased.  For some apps, your kids can spend hundreds of dollars with a few swipes of the finger.

After enough kids spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on these purchases, parents began to file lawsuits against technology manufacturers.  At the time, it was way too easy for kids to spend this kind of money without their parents’ consent.

Since the lawsuits began, technology companies began to take notice.  Now, most of them have built-in parental controls for their devices.

Most devices today come with parental controls that can limit both app and in-app purchases.  Without the right password, kids cannot simply download at-will.  It’s not fool-proof, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Of course, these settings rarely come standard out-of-the-box on most devices.  You will have to go and manually configure them.  Luckily, I’ve done some of the homework for you:

Setting parental controls may vary slightly by device, but it can be done on most new tablets and smart phones in a similar way.

You're a great parent - you've bought your son or daughter the hot, new gadget of the season.  Just don't let yourself go broke in the process.  With the right parental control settings, your kids can have a good time without you going broke.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2012 Chad R. Torgerson