Benjamin Wang and his mother

Benjamin Wang (right) likes shopping online with his mother Ms Viviane Chew. Photo by Rachel Tam.

Most children pester their parents to take them to toy shops in shopping malls or neighborhood stores. But when 5-year-old Benjamin Wang wants his toy fix, he asks his mother to take him to Amazon or Lazada.

“I like Amazon,” said Benjamin, a regular and savvy online shopper since he was 4. “I don’t like the toys inside Toys ‘R’ Us.”

Once a month, Benjamin will shop online on his mother’s laptop. He picks what he likes and puts them in the virtual shopping cart. His mother, Ms Viviane Chew, will complete the checkout process. Then, he just waits for his toys to be delivered to the doorstep.

Benjamin shopping on Amazozn

Benjamin and his mother Ms Viviane browsing online shopping platform Amazon. Photo by Rachel Tam.

Benjamin is among a small but growing number of children under 14 years old who shop online. According to the The Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage in Households, published by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority, there’s an increase in the proportion of residents who shop for products and services online in almost all age groups.

Interestingly, the survey also shows that starting from 2014, a very small percentage of the very young – those below 7 years old – have jumped onto the online shopping bandwagon. And among those aged 7 to 14 years old, the proportion has jumped from 6 per cent in 2014 to 13 per cent in 2018.

It’s not clear if these very young shoppers completed the online payment all by themselves, or with adult supervision.

 

A chart showing the percentage of online shoppers in the respective age groups from 2007 to 2018. Chart by Rachel Tam.

While some parents might not be comfortable about exposing their children to online shopping at a young age, Ms Chew is happy to scroll through pages of products together with her son in the comfort of their own home.

 “Amazon is really the go-to. It has all the varieties,” said the 33-year-old who works in the tech industry.

She said Benjamin finds the products in mainstream toy stores boring, and prefers specific toys that are not available locally such as planet-themed items and die-cast motorcycles. With online shopping, she’s able to make sure that what she buys for Benjamin is what he likes.

However, that doesn’t mean Benjamin is given the free rein to shop all he wants. Just like how he isn’t allowed to go to a physical toy shop every day, he is only allowed to shop online once or twice a month.

There’s also a strict a budget. “One item is usually less than $50, and I try to see if there’s free shipping,” said Ms Chew.

She also makes sure her devices are all password-protected, so she gets to decide when her son can have his screen time.

As for parents who don’t want to take any chances, her advice is to set up parental controls to block their children’s access to shopping sites.

Benjamin's online purchases

Benjamin showing off a sticker he chose himself and bought online. Photo by Rachel Tam.