Teens and Making Safe Online Purchases

OnlineShoppingSummer is approaching and teens will be spending more time online – and possibly be making purchases such as iTunes, Netflix or other items that they have parent permission to buy.  It is imperative they know how to make safe cyber-purchases.

Like TV, the Internet targets kids with advertising, giving them plenty of opportunities to shop online, even if they’re not intending to. As parents, you need to make sure your kids are making good choices when it comes to online purchases, and the best way to do this is to talk and set some parameters.

Communicate

Before your kids start making online purchases, talk with them. Let them know what information is okay to give out and what’s not. Just like so many facets of the Internet, it’s essential for your kids to know the difference. Discuss what personal information is okay to provide; this will differ depending on their age. Younger kids should never give out any information, and it’s okay for older kids to give pertinent billing information only if they are buying something with your permission. They should never give out personal financial information or social security numbers.

Let your kids know to come to you so you can help them make the purchases. Plus, depending on their age, they should probably be asking permission before buying anything.

Another thing to communicate to your child is that if he or she is playing online and things come up like “add to shopping cart” or “accepts credit cards,” it’s time to alert you.

Use Gift Cards

Instead of giving out credit card numbers to set up accounts, use gift cards. A lot of kids love buying apps–let them use iTunes gift cards. That way, they can monitor their spending, and you won’t end up seeing surprise totals on your credit card bills. It will also encourage responsible spending.

Only Shop Reputable Sites and Do it Together

You wouldn’t send your eight-year-old into the mall alone with your credit cards; you shouldn’t let your kids have free reign online. Talk about this and how it’s important to sit down and shop together. Maybe they can browse around a little without you on safe, approved sites, but when it comes time for buying, do it together.

The younger kids are, the more online supervision they’ll need. A teen can have more freedom (but still be safe) than a younger child.

Let Them Know Many “Game” Sites Want Money and Membership

A lot of kid-friendly “free” sites are actually sites where you can buy memberships to get more options. If your child likes certain sites for playing, look into them and see if they offer memberships and what it entails. If you’re okay with this, go through the membership together to sign up with your child (you often have to approve this anyway).

If you’re not okay with this, explain why. Maybe you don’t want another monthly fee or you don’t think it’s necessary. Often you can still play, you just don’t get ALL the benefits, but that’s a good life lesson.

Even some apparently free apps will offer things you can buy to make it more fun or a better experience. Discuss with your child if they really think it’s necessary, and go from there.

The Internet offers a lot of fun sites for kids to play and stores to shop in. But it also harbors dangers, whether financial ones or others, and kids need to know what safety precautions to take. Let them know your parameters and values, and they can start making good, safe shopping choices from the beginning.

Contributor:  Heather Legg is a writer who blogs about Internet safety, parenting tips, and healthy lifestyles.

Teaching Teens About Online Responsibility

If you are the parent of a teenager and you have a home computer, then it’s likely that he or she would be surfing the Web 24 hours a day — if you allow it. There’s also a strong possibility that your teen is hiding their online activities. BusinessWire.com released a study conducted by McAfee, a dedicated security technology company, showing that 70 percent of teens hide their Internet usefrom their parents.

The study broke down how teens were hiding their  Web activity: 15 percent of the teens in the study had hacked into a social network; 30 percent had pirated movies or music; and 48.1 percent had cheated on tests, looking up answers on their phones. The study evaluated the awareness of parents and how much they knew about their child’s computer use, finding that more than 70 percent of the parents didn’t see anything abnormal or alarming about their teen’s Internet use.

So, how can parents stay on top of their kids’ online activity without being overbearing, thus encouraging their teens to conceal more? Here are a few suggestions we think will build a stronger connection between you and your teen, while also teaching them the importance of responsible Internet use.

Surf the Internet with your Teenager

Let your kid know that not everything is off limits; go to YouTube and watch viral and funny videos together. If you see something that makes you or your teen obviously uncomfortable, talk about it, and let them know they can trust you and you won’t punish them for their openness.

Keep Sensitive Information Private

Let your teen know that while you want to be in the know about what they are doing and that you can be trusted, the rest of the world on the Internet cannot be trusted. Let your teen know what the consequences are to sharing private information such as phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, bank account information or other sensitive information. Ask them to be honest with you about whether they have shared private details already and with whom.

Empower Your Teen

Let your teen know you view them as an intelligent, responsible young adult who is capable of making the right choice. Deanna of MommyGaga.com advises parents to take an educational tactic in teaching their teens to be responsible users, rather than the prison guard tactic the “Today Show” presents. Deanna advises parents to teach their kids how to use common sense and behave accordingly, so as to not come to a point where you’re policing your kids’ computer use.

What if it’s Gone Too Far?

If you’re phones are tapped, the Feds have paid you a visit regarding wire fraud and your teen is spending 80 hours a week holed up in his or her bedroom, maybe it’s time to use some enforcement. Dr. Michele Borba’s article on Today.com suggests that parents let their kids know that the parent will be online and in charge. This may mean you have spyware hooked up to the family computer, or that you will be in the room while they are online. Having all Internet devices in a family room, and not hidden, can also discourage your kid from doing anything that you wouldn’t approve.

As always, it’s important to be honest and open with your child about why you are protecting them. If you explain why it is important to discuss their online interactions, then they will be more likely to trust you and less likely to think you are just trying to make their lives miserable.

Contributor:  John Hill.  He  is a former print journalist who converted to digital when he fell in love with blogging for larger audiences. He writes about health, fitness and medical topics.