Vendors and individuals both are selling items through online auctions in droves. Whether to let your child take part in these auctions is something you need to think through carefully, weighing the pros and cons.
Online auctions typically require your child to provide some personal information. For instance, he likely will need to provide your address for shipping. Unfortunately, some people use this information to try to make physical contact with kids for kidnapping, sexual encounters or other crimes.
Most online auctions get completed through a bank or other escrow accounts, requiring kids to input account or card numbers. Cybercriminals can take this information and pull out all the money your child has in the blink of an eye. If you’ve linked your account to other accounts, they might be able to get information about the secondary accounts and drain those, too. This fact is especially disconcerting given that many kids, as minors, might have their accounts linked to their parents’ accounts.
Then, of course, there is the fact that kids can get cheated. Some individuals who post bids simply never deliver the items they put up for sale. Others provide products other than those posted, or the quality or condition of the items is different than what is listed in the auction description.
Kids who get involved in online auctions sometimes get too emotionally involved in bidding and winning the item. They simply might not have the experience or cognitive development that allows rationality to lead. Coupled with a social emphasis on winning, the lack of exposure and analysis creates a recipe for seriously poor perspective and overreaction if the bid is lost.
The reality of the modern market is that a huge percentage of transactions are done via the Internet. If you let your child participate in an online auction, you introduce them to the fact they don’t necessarily have to go to a brick-and-mortar store to get what they want. This can make them feel more comfortable with non-auction online sales. It also gets them started with concepts such as how electronic fund transfers and automated clearing houses work and how to communicate with sellers through email, chat or online enquiry forms.
Online auctions also can get your kid to think about how much he is willing to pay for something in advance. This kind of thinking is a big asset to budgeting, which requires setting spending caps in different areas. It also encourages a discussion of perceived versus actual value and supply and demand.
Allowing your child to bid online also provides a chance for solid comparison shopping. Your child can look at what the retail value of the item is and see if the current bid is a good deal. Once the bid is over, he can calculate how much he (or the winning bidder) saved or how much the price exceeded the standard store price.
In many cases, going online can be a cost-effective way for your child to get items that aren’t available in stores anymore, such as limited edition trading cards or toys. It teaches your child that it’s still possible to get desired items even if they aren’t on the market. As your child looks for these types of items, he can figure out if the item has gone up or down in value.
Getting your child online to participate in an auction is not entirely safe. He might lose his money or get something other than what he was expecting, and unfortunately, sharing personal information can put him physically at risk. Nevertheless, kids still can learn a lot from these kids of transactions, such as how to compare prices and set spending limits. To keep your child safe and reap the maximum benefits, always go through the auction step by step with him. Make sure he knows the current market value of what he’s bidding on in advance and has a dollar figure he’ll stop at, and walk him through the fine print on terms such as returns and shipping. Emphasize that it’s not necessary to win every bid, as well.