Once your kids are shopping online - it’s time everyone gets up to speed

Personal finance columnist Jill Kerby looks at educating children and young people about online shopping, and how to support local at the same time...

The dog and I overheard an extraordinary conversation the other day. She had stopped to do her …business, and as I was waiting, armed with a little plastic bag, a neighbour up the road with three children was pulling her bins back into the garden.

When I asked (fully masked - this is a busy footpath full of joggers in the morning) how everyone was, she replied, “Oh we’re all fine. The kids are pretty bored, we’re juggling work and lessons. The usual.”

Then she stopped, laughed and said she had earlier caught the two older ones checking out the Amazon.co.uk website during their online classroom ‘break time’.

“They told me ‘It’s [youngest child’s] birthday soon, and we’re just looking at Lego. We’ve already checked the prices on Smyths.”

The children are 10 and 8.

My neighbour, still laughing, said they didn’t really know how to place an order – they just thought they would “borrow” her credit card and pay her back from their savings. She will also have to explain to the about the new post-Brexit VAT and custom duty rules, not to mention currency exchange and postage costs.

It is inevitable that our children, stuck at home like many of their parents who have been working remotely from a home ‘office’ – their own bedroom, the kitchen table or at a bench propped in a closet – would think it perfectly normal to do their shopping on line too.

For the past year, the An Post, DHL or FedEx delivery person is probably one of the most regular visitors to their house.

Economists predict there will be a huge recovery once the pandemic ends. The c€20 billion of extra savings in this country alone will pour into the shops, restaurants, tradesmen’s pockets and foreign travel destinations.

They also predict that shopping on line is a permanent feature too, especially once the novelty of standing in a long grocery store queue on a Saturday morning wears off. The advent of new on-line marketplaces for unique, Irish made products and gifts that can be delivered to your door is another development that hopefully provide an alternative to buying foreign made goods.

I wish I’d had more time to chat to my neighbour. I could have suggested that she let the children check out the www.shopinireland.ie website that was only just launched last October in response to the devastation facing small Irish artisans, craftworkers and Irish-made retailers as the country went into the second lockdown, not all of whom had an online presence or a properly designed website.

From this a woman called Teresa Venables set up first a FaceBook page in which she invited this cohort of made-in-Ireland producers to describe and display their goods and she soon created a Shop In Ireland website.

The FaceBook page alone has over 200,000 followers and there are now c3500 Irish made producers and retailers located in every county and displaying over 20,000 products, ranging from large numbers of fashion, jewellery, craft and home décor items to 677 Irish made baby gifts and toys, 761 health and beauty items, 254 Eco and food products.

It has been a roaring success, and has caught the attention of the global Irish diaspora as well. Nearly every provider seems to include a heart felt thank you to everyone who has bought something with many adding that without the new site, they or their small craft shop probably would have gone out of business.

My neighbour needs to point her children to sites like this before they are encouraged to go on Amazon or eBay again. We all need to do our part, with our unspent savings to keep small Irish businesses afloat and part of our regular custom once the pandemic is over.

Becoming more tech savvy now will not just mean that we all become more aware of the advantages and risk of being regular on-line shoppers, but we can also become safer and more responsible consumers.

It isn’t just our children who need to know about cyber safety and encyrption issues and the danger of fraudulent websites, phishing and even our consumer rights.

The government business support grants for small, Irish businesses that didn’t have an on-line presence or had poorly designed websites was another incentive for small companies.

For safety sake, the government consumer and information websites, www.cccp.ie and www.citizens.ie have easy to follow links to all the Brexit tax changes, how to buy goods safely on line and what to do if they are faulty or the merchant goes out of business. (The ShopinIreland website has its own, clear complaints and returns policy.)

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