Balancing individual freedom with parental responsibilities

Teenagers can be savvy consumers: they might be aware of how their private information is being used, questioning where it ends up and why. This also leads to their parents having less of an overview of their children’s online behaviour, especially in the ecommerce space, which is full of companies and individual sellers trying to push age-sensitive products to anyone who would buy them, arguably without much monitoring.
Product Context

Totes is a marketplace that is very popular among young people that sells a wide range of different types of goods, from clothes and hifi products to video games and occasionally age-restricted products. They sell items from over 500 brands and also host a peer-to-peer marketplace.

In order to provide the service, Totes is powered by some of the following data:

  1. On first use of the Totes app it collects personal information - email, gender and location - to create a personalised shopping experience.
  2. Totes occasionally sends people special offers and product recommendations tailored to their tastes based on information gathered while using Totes. Control of this information can also be accessed at any time in settings.
  3. Totes has started selling alcohol on its platform. Totes prevents young people from buying and selling alcohol as well as weapons and other items with inappropriate content.

Problem & Opportunity

With so many products on offer on the website, it’s becoming much easier for a teenager to purchase age-restricted products. While using passport identification is one viable way to prove that a person is who they say they are, it gives away crucial personal data that can be misused if it gets into the wrong hands. This can become very problematic on services and can expose both teenagers and sellers to further risks, such as selling age-restricted products to minors and identity fraud.

How might we...

...give teenagers the online autonomy they deserve while giving parents the peace of mind they need?

Design Features
Peace of mind for parents

The first time someone is making a purchase, Totes introduces an innovative and short onboarding process where it asks the young person if they usually use their parent or guardian’s payment card. If the answer is yes, it then asks people to pair the app with a companion app that the guardian has to download. This allows for the parent to have an overview and understanding of what their payment card is being used for and if it is being used appropriately. Everything from the language to the subtle animation reinforces the idea of absolute autonomy and transparency for both parties.

Once the companion app is downloaded, the parent has their “parent view” where they can see all their teen’s history and spending. To prevent this from violating privacy, the app groups the purchase history into more generic categories, rather than displaying the exact products that have been purchased.

Totes flags to parents certain items that may be inappropriate for teens and alerts others if they see similar purchases on their accounts.

Totes 1

Design Features
Building a safe and reliable platform through verification

Totes 2When the second option is selected and a person chooses to pay with their own card, the sign up process begins. Through a transparent process and simple language, Totes guides people through identity verification.

Also, as a way of verifying a person’s identity, Totes uses public sources such as department of education and electoral register information to make sure that the user is who they say they are, protecting both buyer and seller by building a safe and reliable platform.

As the last step, instead of hiding data use preferences somewhere in a setting menu, Totes places it at the end of the verification process to make sure people can see and amend key usages as well as what alerts, ads or promotion material they receive, before finally signing up.

Next steps

How might we build on Totes’s ideas to...

  • Make sure that we respect teens’ privacy while still allowing them freedom to navigate the internet safely and responsibly.
  • Build on the process of identification which is less intrusive than using passports or credit cards, such as more advanced face recognition techniques.
  • Allow parents and kids to co-exist in an online space and be a part of each other's lives, without being seen as overprotective.
  • Be upfront of how and where their data will go to and how they would like to receive it.