NEW YORK – Apple Inc. has changed how purchases inside iPhone and iPad games are authorized after customers complained that their kids were racking up hundreds of dollars worth of charges.

The issue was that after a user entered his or her iTunes password on a device, the device didn’t prompt for the password again for 15 minutes. Any purchases, whether in the iTunes store or inside kid-friendly games such as “The Smurf’s Village,” went through without a new password prompt.

This meant that parents who handed over their iPhones or iPads to their kids were sometimes shocked by large purchases of “Smurfberries” and other virtual bling.

With the iOS 4.3 software update, Apple devices have one 15-minute password-free timer for the App Store and iTunes, and a separate one for in-app purchases, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said.

Free, child-friendly games that allow in-app purchases are still on the list of top-grossing apps in the App Store. At the top is “Tap Zoo,” and “Smurfs’ Village” is No. 6.