How do I manage the pressure my child feels to buy online?

Guidance to support children and young people’s wellbeing

Digital parenting experts Dr Elizabeth Milovidov and Parven Kaur know how children can struggle when it comes to finance.

Below, they share advice to help parents manage impacts on wellbeing and risks of harm when it comes to buying online.

A teen looks at a credit card while holding a smartphone.

Dr Elizabeth Milovidov, JD

Law Professor and Digital Parenting Expert
Expert Website

What are the potential risks of young people finding quick ways to make or save money online?

In today’s connected world, many people – young and not-so-young – dream of making money online. Who hasn’t seen a social media post glamorising the laptop lifestyle, where you put out some content and… click, click, money is in the bank?

The idea of making quick money may seem appealing, but there are 3 potential risks that immediately come to mind.

Negative impacts on wellbeing

First, the stress of finding and creating an entrepreneurial activity can impact a young person’s wellbeing. Once the activity is up and running, our enterprising businessperson has to keep producing new content, find creative angles and stay up to date with trends in their business area.

For a child who must also balance school and their social life, they could struggle with feelings of overwhelm.

Emphasis on materialism

Second, the idea of quick money online may place too much emphasis on materialistic values. We’ve recently seen young people gobbling up influencer content, subscribing to money-making academies and becoming unknown players in financial scams.

Impacts on self-esteem

And finally, the reliance on social media likes or comments could have a negative impact on self-esteem. In many online ventures, ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ are necessary to sustain the activity, and we’ve seen online businesses go over-the-top to create viral content.

Parven Kaur

Founder of Kids N Clicks
Expert Website

How are children influenced to spend online?

The desire to make money online can be strong among teenagers, especially during the holiday season. Social media platforms such as TikTok amplify this desire by showcasing individuals or influencers claiming to have fortunes from online ventures like dropshipping, retail arbitrage or selling on Etsy.

They often paint a picture of quick and easy success, typically glossing over the challenges and realities of such endeavors.

What are the potential risks of young people finding quick ways to make or save money online?

While the internet offers legitimate opportunities for earning, it’s crucial for young people and their guardians to understand the potential risks involved. The following are some key risks to consider.

Falling prey to scams

There are plenty of scams online, from courses that promise to teach you how to make quick money to fraudulent investment opportunities. Teens, often less experienced in spotting these dangers, are at risk of financial loss.

Engaging in unregulated markets

Cryptocurrency trading can be tempting, but these markets are typically unregulated and volatile. Influencers on Instagram and TikTok often showcase quick cash gains from trading, potentially making others feel left out. This is particularly dangerous for teenagers unfamiliar with these markets.

Compromising personal information

Online money-making often requires sharing personal information. This can put teens at risk of identity theft if their sensitive data, such as bank details, fall into the wrong hands.

Overspending on deceptive deals

Websites promoting cheap items can be misleading, leading to purchases of low-quality products or encounters with fraudulent sellers. For example, there are many individuals on social media platforms showing how they buy items on Temu and re-sell them on eBay at a higher price.

However, they often fail to reveal the level of competition for these items and how such behavior can result in a banned eBay account. This results in feelings of betrayal and disappointment.

Psychological impact

The continuous pursuit of online financial gains can lead to stress, anxiety and a distorted view of money management, impacting teens’ overall wellbeing and mental health.

Additionally, teens may fall into the misconception that making money is quick and easy, leading to unrealistic expectations and a distorted understanding of how money-making actually works. This can have long-term effects on their financial habits and decision-making.

How can parents help teens navigate these risks?

  • Educate both yourself and teens about online scams and the importance of financial literacy.
  • Approach online opportunities with caution, and always research thoroughly before engaging.
  • Protect personal information vigilantly.

Keep open lines of communication regarding the realities and pressures of online financial endeavors.

How can parents counter pressures to spend online?

Some children, especially around the holidays, want to make money online or find good deals so they can buy gifts for their friends or family. While it comes from a good place, reassure them that they don’t need to do this.

If they’re insistent on giving gifts to others, you can seek out alternatives.

  • If your budget allows, provide them an allowance to spend on gifts. Offline, this can be a cash allowance; online this could look like a gift voucher to an online retailer.
  • Learn how to make gifts together. With so many how-to videos on YouTube, young people can learn to make a range of gifts — from candles to hats to baked goods. A gift doesn’t have to cost a lot to have meaning.

Additionally, talk to them about the pressures they feel. Why do they feel that way? Is there an underlying issue to address?

You can suggest alternative ways to contribute as well such as cooking a holiday meal, organising a festive movie night or taking charge of decorations.