When it comes to inventions that have changed the course of history, the Internet certainly makes the list. The World Wide Web provides a plethora of opportunities and information to the public, and kids and adults alike adore the Internet as a link to retailers. Shopping online is incredibly convenient, but to be safe, kids have to understand the dangers that can pop up at their next click.
- Do some shopping with your child. This shows your child a few sites that are safe and gets the idea across that online shopping is fine when you take the right precautions. It also walks him through the process of searching for and finding items, reviewing an online cart, entering personal information, confirming order information and saving purchase confirmation pages or emails.
- Show your child how to log out of any retailer website that requires an account for purchase.
- Teach your child seven words: “What is this?” and “What do I do?” Encourage your child to ask both questions if he sees anything he isn’t familiar with. Your answers will give him more information about how the sites and retailers are operating, thereby directing his next course of action on the sites.
- Get your child in the habit of double checking item and shipping totals. Mistakes sometimes happen, and you don’t want your child to go through the checkout process so automatically that he doesn’t catch errors. A good thing to check is whether the number of each item ordered is correct.
A common scam against kids who shop online is to require additional purchases or subscriptions to complete a purchase. This is particularly common for sites that offer music downloads. To avoid quality scams, teach your child to comparison shop and check reviews of the products he buys, too.
Personal Information and Identity Theft
Whenever your child buys something online, he of course needs to provide his address so the retailer knows where to ship the product. He also needs to provide information for the payment method, such as a credit card number. Still, this information has to be given out cautiously because it can lead to identity fraud. It details exactly where others can find you and your child and provides account information. Explain that legitimate vendors should not be asking for more than this information and to stay away from sites that request data like Social Security numbers. Use only secure Internet connections even on sites you trust, and use antivirus software that can catch files that steal information or track your child’s browsing history and key entries. Teach your child not to link buyer accounts to social networking sites that hold personal information such as Facebook, as getting the personal information from these sites is easy prey for thieves.
Problems such as identity theft and scams top the list of problems for kids buying online, but another big risk is for your child to overspend. With in-person shopping, your child is somewhat limited to the vendors in your area. Going to the stores takes time from the day and, because you might even need to drive your child to the stores, isn’t as convenient or private.
By contrast, when a child shops online, he doesn’t even need to leave the house and can complete a buy in just minutes. If a child isn’t keeping tabs on what he’s buying and is shopping mainly for something to do, costs quickly can add up. To prevent this problem, make policies such as limiting the time spent on the computer for shopping to 15 minutes. You also can try techniques like letting your child use a prepaid card or Paypal account for his purchases, which won’t limit shopping time but will cap how much your child can shell out within a given period. Always ask your child what he intends to buy before he goes to the computer, urging specific purchase goals, and talk to him about ways he can pay for those items on his own (e.g., allowance savings).