Kids and Online Shopping

Ann Douglas's picture

by Ann Douglas

Think your kids are too young to get their feet wet in the weird-yet-wonderful world of online shopping? Think again. According to two recent studies from south of the border, young people between the ages of 8 and 24 have taken a shine to online shopping. Thirteen cents of every dollar that leaves their pocket is spent in cyberspace -- a figure that translates into a mind boggling $164 billion U.S. in online sales each year!

Internet shopping expert Lisa Price isn't surprised by these figures at all, given how comfortable the younger generation is with Internet technology. "For them, the Internet is like TV was for us -- something that's always been there."

Price, who is the co-author of The Best of Online Shopping (New York: Ballantine Books, $24), has seen first-hand just how appealing online shopping can be to the younger generation. "I have a 12 year old son who loves to shop online," she explains.

Like most net-savvy parents, Price has established some firm ground rules for her son when it comes to online shopping. "He knows that he's not allowed to give any personal information about himself without my permission. And I've told him that it's fine for him to look around and shop, but that when it's time to hit the checkout, I need to handle the transaction on his behalf."

While Price insists that these types of online ground rules are necessary in order to avoid shopping-related problems and conflicts, she is also quick to stress that there are a number of noteworthy benefits to allowing your kids to shop online.

At the top of her list is the fact that kids can learn a lot about bargain hunting if they learn how to use the Internet as a research tool. "Kids can learn to be savvy consumers by checking prices online," she explains. "My son is getting to be very good at comparison shopping. He'll frequently report back to me on the price of a particular item at various sites."

And then there's the fact that online shopping can eliminate some of the hassle and guesswork of shopping for kids during the holidays. "A lot of e-commerce sites have wish lists that allow kids to come up with a list of items that they'd really like to receive as gifts. This helps to eliminate duplication and to ensure that the gifts that your child receives are items that he genuinely wants. The trick is to only allow your child to set up wish lists at one site in each merchandise category (e.g. one toy site, one sports site, and one book site). If your child sets up wish lists at more than one site, you're more likely to run into a problem with him receiving duplicate gifts."

As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to teach your child to stick to the more established stores -- stores that have clearly defined return policies and that can meet the shipping deadlines that they promise. "If you do your homework up-front, you can avoid a lot of disappointment," Price stresses.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.