Let’s face it: A day at the mall is no longer the social and recreational event for today’s children and teens that it was for our generation. Like so many of us, young people today aren’t just turning to the digital world for their fun and entertainment, they’re also going online to do their shopping.
In fact, a recent study from the UK found that, in 2019, 2 in 10 retail purchases were made online, with that number increasing to 3 in 10 in the pandemic year of 2020/ But it’s not only in the UK that the online shopping trend has taken root. In the US, more than 80% of the population, nearly 300 million people, shopped online in 2020. Of those online shoppers, nearly 17% were under the age of 25.
In other words, it looks as if e-commerce is here to stay for kids as well as adults. But online shopping, as any parent knows, is not without risks. But there are a few things you need to teach your child or teen about online shopping before they leap the digital marketplace.
Avoiding Scams, Protecting Privacy
One of the greatest risks young people face when shopping online, of course, is the risk to their personal information. After all, it’s not at all difficult to fall for an online shopping scam, even for the most tech-savvy of adults.
If a child or teen sees a product advertised online that they’re just dying to own, it can be quite tempting to throw caution to the wind and go for it. And the result can be catastrophic, ranging from identity theft to threats to your child’s, and your family’s, safety, due to the release not only of financial information but also, in most cases, to the disclosure of your family’s home address.
And this is why parents must teach their children about online shopping scams and how to identify the warning signs of a potentially fraudulent site or online seller. Among the red flags that children should be taught to watch for are poorly designed and unprofessional-looking sites, sites with numerous broken links and negative reviews, and sites that do not provide contact information or details regarding their refund policies.
In addition to learning how to spot the key indicators of a scam site, you’ll also need to show your kids the best practices for protecting their information, even when a site or seller seems legitimate.
For instance, your kids need to know never to complete a purchase or even to enter their personal or financial information, if the padlock icon is missing from the browser or website address. Similarly, parents need to emphasize the importance of using, and regularly updating, passwords when shopping online.
Teaching Financial Fitness
Security risks aren’t the only threats that kids can face when they enter the world of e-commerce. Perhaps the greatest risk of all is financial mismanagement. Shopping online can feel, in many ways, a bit like a game. After all, you’re not physically doling out cash to a cashier, and that can make it easy to forget that you’re spending real money.
So your kids, no matter how old, will need an age-appropriate crash course in money management, including lessons on how to avoid overspending when shopping online. A particularly great way to do this is to highlight the connection between money and work.
With young children, for instance, you might load a specific amount of cash onto a prepaid debit card for completing household chores, allowing your little one to spend only to the car’s limit. Once the funds are exhausted, no more online shopping until more work is done!
You can take your money management lessons to an even higher level with your teenagers. Requiring them to take on a part-time job after school and during the summer, such as mowing lawns, tutoring, or babysitting can really drive home the value of the dollar. Your teens’ online discretionary spending money will be limited to what they earn themselves.
Online shopping, it seems, is the new normal for consumers of every age. But that does not mean that kids should be left to figure out the world of e-commerce for themselves. There are several important lessons children and teens need to learn before they take up the habit of online shopping. It all begins, of course, with safety and security, teaching your kids how to spot a scammer and instilling in them strong data security rituals. In addition, kids also need to understand that online shopping isn’t a game, that there is real money, and real work involved in each purchase. Requiring your kids to perform household chores or to take a part-time job will ingrain in them the true value of a dollar, which in turn will help to make them more judicious and responsible online shoppers.