Experts in digital safety
Clothes, crafts, collectibles – whatever your teen’s interest might be, it’s safe to say that shopping opens up a world of possibilities and exploration when done online. Young people who don’t do their window browsing this way are now in the minority, with Google data showing that 68% of all teens make purchases online.
But along with the thrill of opening up that package and the amazing convenience that online shopping has to offer comes great responsibility and risk, too. One Australian survey revealed that teen spending habits had forced 56% of parents to foot the bill for them. Among those surveyed, the most expensive purchase set the parents back $7,000 (AUD). To help teens stay safe online, and keep them away from the family cash, we’ve laid out some useful and practical online shopping tips.
Getting your teen set up to shop safely online
The serotonin high of online shopping often proves understandably difficult for children to resist. Whether it’s snapping up the latest cool item, signing up for a must-have service, or simply engaging in a bit of retail therapy, online shops and services are almost impossible to avoid if your child uses social media or the internet, and especially if they have their own phone.
If your child or teen expresses a wish to start making their own purchases online, you’ll need to set out some ground rules before they begin. You may want to adjust your rules depending on your child’s age, but some sensible shopping tips to consider include:
- Only shopping online under supervision
- Not being allowed to use a payment method (such as a credit card) without permission
- Setting an allowance for online purchases
- Creating a list of blacklisted sites where your child cannot shop (these sites can be blocked on all devices through Qustodio’s web filtering features)
- Creating a list of retailers where your child is OK to shop from
Tips to help your child stay safe as they shop online
- Do your homework
There are lots of great new online retailers popping up all the time, but if you’re not familiar with the site or the name of the company, be sure to do your due diligence before making a purchase. Search the company name and read up on other consumers’ experiences. You may be able to learn from their mistakes.
- Shop from home
Be sure that all online purchases are made from a secure network, preferably a password-protected home network. Don’t compromise your financial information by sending it over an unsecured wireless network such as those offered by restaurants, hotels, and the like.
- Shop as a guest
If you shop with a specific retailer frequently, it may be tempting to create an account so that you don’t have to enter your payment and shipping information each time you shop, but this convenience could come with a hefty price. In the event that the site gets hacked, your personal and financial information could be compromised. Why take that risk?
- Use a secure payment method
Choose a trusted payment method when helping your child make an online purchase, such as a credit card or Paypal. Debit cards look similar to credit cards, but they are actually very different, especially when it comes to online transactions. With a credit card, you have some protection if you don’t receive the goods you paid for. This is not the case, however, with a debit card.
Helping your child to avoid scams when online shopping
With the sheer number of advertisements your child is exposed to as they browse online, go on social media, or play their favorite games, it’s only a matter of time before they come up against a suspicious site. Online shopping scams range from fake sellers directly taking payment for products which the buyer will never receive, to false advertising, and low-quality goods.
It’s important to teach your child what makes a website suspicious, how they can identify low-quality products, and how to be wary of certain marketing practices as they shop online.
Things to watch out for can include:
- The store or seller asking for payment through a pre-loaded card or wire transfer
- The advertised price being much lower than it is for the same product in other shops, or for similar products online
- A recently created social media account for the store, with very limited information
- Contact information, returns policy, and terms and conditions of the site being very difficult to find, or not available
- Obvious spelling mistakes and grammatical errors throughout the text and descriptions on the site
- No online reviews of the store or of the products sold through the site
Model ideal online shopping yourself
To help children learn from your experience, it’s important to let them observe how you interact with online stores and do your own online shopping. Kids learn from our decisions and behavior as adults, so it’s a good idea to talk to your child regularly about money and online purchases.
Aside from simply staying safe online, children need to learn how to budget, and place value on money. While money talk is often seen as “taboo” in many social situations, children need to understand the difference between wants and needs, and take responsibility for how they earn and spend their own money. The CFPB has some great free resources for families looking to talk and engage more with their teens about money, and money management.
Through observing your “healthy” online shopping habits, and regular, honest discussions about money, you’ll get your teen off to a flying start for purchases made under your own roof, and set them up for success as they develop money management skills for life.