According to the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of teens with Internet access are shopping online. While adult shoppers can often find better deals and more choices on the Internet, experts say the web may not be the best shopping option for teens.
Is it easy for teens to spend too much money, online?
"Yes. Yes it is," says 19-year-old Rahil.
"I know lots of people that they've gone into debt because of how much they have been spending online," answers 19-year-old Anna.
One reason some kids overspend is that stores on the web are always open.
"I mean I buy jeans ridiculously," says 18-year-old Ariel. "It's crazy. In the morning, like 11 o'clock, when I wake up, I buy jeans."
Another problem is using a credit card.
"If you go online and you have a credit card, you can spend, spend, spend, and you can continue to spend until you've reached your limit possibly, which may be way more than you ever planned or budgeted on spending," says Todd Mark, spokesperson for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
Mark says that, at the mall, you can see what you've purchased--- and realize that you may have spent too much money. "Many times people will stop shopping, because they can't carry any more," he notes.
But online, the shopping doesn't always feel real. The items may take weeks to arrive, and kids may forget they've made a purchase.
"So you can continue to shop and shop and shop and you don't get that psychological payoff," says Mark.
Before kids go online, he says, parents should help them decide what to buy, and how much to spend. Also, wait at least a day before making a purchase.
And, he says, teach kids to use the Internet to their advantage.
"Shopping online is fantastic for comparison shopping, because never before have you had the ability to see all the prices offered from everybody at one time," says Mark.
Another piece of advice?
"Just go online for one thing at a time, definitely," says Robyn, a 19-year-old college student. "Just go in with, like, a goal - and then leave."
What We Need To Know
The Better Business Bureau provides this list of tips for shopping online:
- Trust your instincts. If you don't feel comfortable buying or bidding on an item over the web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn't.
- Be knowledgeable about web-based auctions. Take special care to familiarize yourself not only with the rules and policies of the auction site itself but with the legal terms (warranties, refund policy, etc.) of the seller's items that you wish to bid on.
- Double check pricing. Whether the product is being sold as new or used, be suspicious of prices that are too good to be true. Also consider carefully whether you may be paying too much for an item, particularly if you're bidding through an auction site. You may want to comparison shop, online or offline, before you buy.
- Review the return, refund, and shipping and handling policies as well as the other legal terms. If you can't find them, ask the seller through an e-mail or telephone call to indicate where they are on the site or to provide them to you in writing.
- Check that the Internet connections are secure. Before you give your payment information, there are various icons and software programs that indicate that security software is in place.
- Use the safest way to pay on the Internet. Pay for your order using a credit card.
- Print the terms. You should print out and date a copy of terms, conditions, warranties, item description, company information, even confirming e-mails, and save them with your records of your purchase.
- Insure the safe delivery of your item. If you're concerned about the safety of your package if there's no one home to receive it, ask whether you can specify that the shipper must receive a signature before leaving the package. Or, it may be safer to have the package delivered to your office.
- Inspect your purchase. Look at your purchase carefully as soon as you receive it. Contact the seller as soon as possible if you discover a problem with it. Tell the seller in writing about any problem that you are concerned with, ask for a repair or refund, and keep a copy of your correspondence.