EBay may open accounts to kids
Can the company develop adequate protective and parental control policies?
EBay (EBAY) soon may aim services and marketing directly at children.
According to The Wall Street Journal, eBay will require children's accounts to have parental authorization. Davin Wenig, the president of global marketplaces, told the Journal the company is looking at ways to involve younger people. "We wouldn't allow a 15-year-old unfettered access to the site," he added. "We would want a parent, an adult as a ride-along."
When it comes to children using the Internet, people are correctly very protective, and it remains to be seen whether parents will feel comfortable with this new approach. However, Wenig pointed out that it is likely that children have been lying about their age online for years and that these measures should add new transparency.
Aiming advertisements at children is no new thing. From soft drinks and breakfast cereal to toys and movies, ad houses have known for a long time that while children might now have disposable income of their own, parents listen to what they want.
Therefore, it is perhaps a little odd that it took eBay until now to reach out to children and that other sites, like Amazon (AMZN), still appear hesitant to do so. There are moral issues when it comes to children and online shopping, but eBay believes that it has addressed those concerns.
If eBay does manage to create a safe online environment for children to browse and purchase products, it will open up a whole new avenue that the likes of Amazon would likely be keen to exploit.
EBay's user agreement clearly and carefully restricts many items that could be considered harmful or offensive (for example, it is against the rules to sell a used jock strap on the site), but there are still many perfectly legal items available that should not be in the hands of minors.
As it works to target the children's market, eBay is wrestling with tricky issues -- particularly with how it structures protective policies. On Thursday, eBay shares rose 1% to $43.62.
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