Perhaps you’ve heard about the Amazon Teen shopping program, in which parents can set up an Amazon login for your teens to shop on their own. It includes lots of safeguards to make sure kids don’t spend more than you want them to, but is it a good idea? Or a financial disaster waiting to happen?

Well, here’s the pros and cons of Amazon Teen so you can make your own best decision.

Related: Amazon’s Echo Dot for kids is here. But there will be no, “Alexa, buy me a pony.”

Amazon Teen: How it works

For starters, this is designed just for those of you who are Amazon Prime members. (Which is like, all of us these days, right?)  Your teens, ages 13-17, can log in through an invitation sent from the parent’s own account. Which means your teen needs either a mobile number or an email to be invited.

You’ll have to enter your child’s birthday (we generally recommend fudging that date a bit for privacy reasons) and choose which of your saved payment methods you want attached to your teen’s account. Because, shopping.

You can also select approved addresses where their orders may be shipped. Like, home. Or, Grandma. I think this is a particularly nice feature for kids who move around between households.

You’ll get to approve purchases, but only using a single mobile number and email address that you select, i.e. use your own, and not your teen’s!

Once the teen account set up, your child can browse Amazon and add items they want to their cart. You’ll receive a text about the items, shipping info and payment info for the order. and you must approve it before it will go through. If you have set up family sharing on iOS or a similar service with a approval of all your kid’s app downloads, then you know exactly how this works.

Oh, and while your teen will be in his own linked Amazon account, your own info and shopping history is private. They can’t see the gifts you’ve purchased them, or any other more (ahem) personal shopping you might have done on Amazon.

Related: How to get money back from your kid’s accidental in-app purchases on Amazon

 What we like about Amazon Teen

There are some real benefits to Amazon Teen, as we see it. First, there’s the convenience — your kid can reorder their favorite protein bars for soccer practice or the new sneakers you told her she could buy, and that’s one thing off your own to-do-list. All you do is approve.

You also have the control not  to approve every single order, or you can also choose to set a spending limit instead.

That’s actually a smart way to help teach budgeting and being a savvy online shopper in general —  by making my teen do some shopping on his own, I like that  he can will learn about comparison shopping, learn the importance of reading reviews critically (Don’t you hate when it’s like, “One star! I ordered the wrong product!” Duh.), and make better informed decisions about how he’d like to spend his money.

It’s also good for our own budget-keeping records! There are those times our kids say, “oh please can I have this album download on Amazon music? I’ll pay you back!” and you..kind of forget to get paid back.

Because yeah, even though Amazon charges my card on file, it will definitely make me confirm that my son is willing to pay me back before I hit “approve” on that new baseball hat he wants.

Related: The one back-to-school item you probably haven’t thought to buy . . . yet!

Amazon Teen: The watch-outs

Amazon Teen Shopping Program: What parents should know
Photo: Victoria Heath on Unsplash

I’m admittedly nervous that giving my kids their own Amazon login will create a new outlet for them to waste time online, especially since they know that their purchases can’t accidentally go through. They’ll feel safe adding and adding (and adding) to their cart.

Which, of course, is what Amazon wants.

In fact, the graphics on the teen login page for the program include a mock text convo in which a teen asks Mom for two pairs of sunglasses, explaining one is for the dog. The mom laughs and says okay — followed by the tagline, Shop with your parents’ card. They agree with a text.

Uh, no. FYI, kids, I will not be approving the purchase of sunglasses for the dog.

I also admit I don’t like being put in one more situation where I’m the mom who is always saying no — to more screen time, to more junk food , and now to the Amazon purchases my kids want to make. Just something to think about before you log in.

Of course those are pretty minor concerns and have to do with my personality more than the service.

In fact one more watch-out to consider, which may actually be a plus for your kids, is that Amazon Teen offers teen-curated shops within Amazon. Nothing like a little peer pressure to push you into spending more money.

There’s also free in-game loot with Twitch Prime memberships, which could go in the plus or minus column, depending how you look at things.

What other parents are saying

This feature has been available since last year, so we were interested to see what financial experts had to say about it. So we were glad to find expert Winnie Sun’s take. She suggests that setting up an account can be helpful for your kids, because the parent-controlled training is great for them, with certain restrictions. You can see the guidelines she suggests you set up at Forbes.

So really, the choice is yours.

I think this is going to be a really personal decision, depending on your own family’s values. your budget, and how you allow your teens to earn and spend money.

It’s definitely a better alternative than giving them their own credit card. On the other hand, it entirely limits them to shopping in one specific place — although you may be shopping there anyway, and at least with Prime, your shipping is likely free.

It also comes down to your own kid’s temperament and views about shopping — do they love shopping for the sake of shopping? Or is just something you do when you need something specific, like a new backpack for school, a combination lock for the new high school lockers, or a few pairs of socks that actually match?

If you have a kid who doesn’t need any more opportunities to ask for stuff, it might not be right for you. On the other hand, if you have a responsible kid who can make some decision on their own and learn how to manage a budget, it might be a huge convenience for your family. And there’s something awesome about baby steps like this that can continue teaching kids responsibility

But no sunglasses for dogs, okay?

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