If you’re like most parents, you probably don’t want to go back to the age of the dinosaurs when there was no such thing as the Internet. (Okay, so maybe that’s a little far back, but you get the idea.) Kids don’t always see how shopping online can make savings dwindle, though, so you have to train them how to use this valuable tool the right way.
Use Technology to Control Technology
You can direct where and how your child surfs the World Wide Web pretty easily. The first thing to do right off the bat is to go into the security or privacy settings on your device (e.g., mobile phone, laptop, etc.) and
- Set up a password so your child cannot access general applications or web browsers without you knowing
- Adjust parental controls
In some cases, password settings and parental controls essentially are in the same place, but the parental controls can be separate from whether you have your device password protected, depending on the operating system. They let you do things like limit the amount your child can have online or block access to particular games and websites. In many cases, you also can go directly into the browser and add specific sites to a blacklist, too.
Newer versions of routers sometimes have hardcoded firmware, which is just software that comes with the router that users typically cannot reprogram easily. Sometimes this firmware has security settings similar to the parental controls operating systems offer. The benefit of changing router firmware settings rather than just the settings on your computer or phone is that the router will filter access for any device that tries to connect to your network. You don’t have to worry about the settings being inconsistent, and your child can’t simply grab their friend’s device to try to bypass you.
If you’re not very tech-savvy yourself, don’t worry. Even a simple kitchen timer can help you and your child limit the amount of time spent shopping online.
Kids are easy targets for marketers because they are still more emotionally-based, responding more on impulse and less on logic. A simple rule that can cut down your child’s online bills is to have them wait a minimum of 24 hours before they actually buy something they see on a site. If they still want it when they come back to the computer, it’s less likely they’re buying for immediate gratification.
Showing the Money
Buying online usually requires providing some bank account or credit/debit card information, but that doesn’t mean your child has to forget he’s really spending money. If your child is using your card or account, have him get the cash for the item from his savings or spending money and give it to you—you’ll later use this money to pay the portion of the total card bill that comes from the purchase. Make sure you count it out together, and ideally, have him figure out the percentage of his total money the item is costing him so he really sees the big picture of what he’s doing.
You can use bankaroo for that…. 🙂
Even when your child is buying online, the basic rule of comparison shopping for the best deal still applies, especially given that the Internet opens up the doors to thousands of vendors. Have him use well-known sites such as Pricegrabber.com or Amazon.com to get a sense of fair market value and find the site with the lowest price.
In some cases, your child might see two or more sellers with very similar prices. In this case, teach your child to read seller reviews. This reduces the chances of getting scammed or receiving a defective product.
Buy It All
A big area that costs kids money when online shopping is shipping. If your child has a few things he wants from one site, have him wait until he can buy most or all of those things together. In some cases, if your child buys over a certain amount, shipping is even free.
A good habit to get your child into to reduce spending is to never get online to buy unless they know exactly what they’ll purchase. They’ll spend less time on the shopping sites this way and therefore probably will be less tempted to throw something else into the online cart—it’s the Internet equivalent to staying out of the grocery store unless you’ve got your list with you.