Online e-commerce giant Amazon rolled out a new platform in the last year that’s designed to give teens some shopping independence – but only with their parents’ approval.
With Amazon Teen, kids ages 13 to 17 can shop on Amazon with their own login and independently use the Amazon App. Parents also can pass along Prime membership benefits to their teens, including free two-day shipping and access to Prime Video and the Twitch Prime gaming platform.
Here’s how it might work, according to Amazon:
A 15-year-old needs a book for class. So, using her Amazon Teen login, she places the order through the Amazon App.
Her order triggers a text or email to her parents with details about what she wants, the cost, shipping instructions and payment information. She also can include a note about why she needs the book. With the information, parents decide if they’ll approve the order. Parents who don’t want to sign off on every single order can set spending limits instead.
What is Amazon Teen?
For teens spending money and seeking more independence – and frazzled parents who don’t have time to make it to the store for every necessity—Amazon Teen might seem like a dream come true.
The program does give parents critical oversight over their child’s spending habits, said Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist and author who explores the toddler to teen years in online courses for parents, and could be a useful option for some families.
“The safeguards that they put in are very smart,” Kennedy-Moore said. “The fact you can limit how much the teen spends, and the parents can review what they purchase before the transaction is completed seems much better than just handing over your credit card.”
But that doesn’t mean you should rush to sign up, she said. First, you need to discuss money—and spending habits. Here are the five questions you need to ask your teen before you sign up for Amazon Teen.
1) Where do teens really want to spend their money?
The answer might not be Amazon.
“I don’t think I would use this with my teens,” said Kennedy-Moore, who has two teens and two older kids. “Amazon is not the place where they really want to be spending their money. My kids were more likely to go out with friends to a movie or for pizza.”
She gives her kids debit cards to cover their needs on the go. “You can use it more places,” she said.
2) Must they buy everything they need?
It’s easy to buy essentials on a site like Amazon, but there are plenty of other ways to source those needs and wants.
If teens need a book, they could go to the library. If they want to watch a movie, they could check it out from Redbox or Netflix instead of Prime Video.
Amazon, she said, “is not the only option.”
3) Are they ready for this kind of freedom?
“You know your child,” she said. “More impulsive kids will need closer supervision than a rule follower.”
Either way, a discussion about Amazon Teen provides a logical jumping off point for a discussion about needs, wants, materialism and the danger of pursuing that next fun purchase, she said.
“We get that little blip of endorphins when we buy a cute shirt,” she said. “But that doesn’t last.”
4) Why would Amazon offer the service?
Out of the goodness of their heart? Or as a ploy to turn teens into life-long Amazon shoppers? The multi-billion company already has aimed for dominance in dozens of sectors. One report forecasts that by 2021, half of online sales will happen on Amazon.
“It’s useful to explore the idea of why is the company doing this,” she said. “To be smart consumers, you have to understand what their incentive is and then you have to weigh the pros and cons.”
5) How can your spending reflect your values?
The answer will vary widely. Kennedy-Moore’s youngest daughter, concerned about humanitarian issues in the clothing industry, for instance, will only buy items that are ethically sourced or secondhand. Others might want to shop local stores first to support their community.
What’s more, she said, “Younger generations are moving toward less stuff.”
These kinds of conversations are important, she explains. “Where you spend your money reflects your values and what matters to you.”
Whatever option is best for your family, Kennedy-Moore recommends regular conversations about money.
“Talk about how you decide how you’re going to spend your money, the steps you take to resist impulse purchases, and how you make sure that the money is going where you want it to go.”