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Online Shopping Addiction: Signs Your Teenager Might be Having a Problem

Online shopping addiction, also known as shopping disorder or oniomania, can be a problem for both adults and children. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, movement restrictions and lockdowns have made people worldwide more reliant on the Internet to order products, groceries and clothing. Phones, laptops and tablets have become convenient platforms for such shopping transactions. However, for some, online shopping can become addictive.

online shopping addiction

While you might think that shopping addiction is usually associated with carefree adults accumulating huge credit card debts, your child might also be one of those hooked onto shopping. Moreover, stress brought about as a result of lockdowns and disruptions to everyday life due to the onset of COVID-19 can boost online shopping addiction even among teenagers and children.

Your child might be a frequent browser or even patron of online shopping platforms. Moreover, you might have given your child lots of pocket money, or even debit and credit cards to use. Your child might even have pestered you repeatedly to purchase items seen online. Hence you might be worried that your child might be addicted to online shopping. Here are some telltale signs that your teenagers might be having a problem.

1. Bulk Purchases without Purpose

While purchasing items in bulk can be cost efficient because of the associated discounts or reduced shipping charges, there should be a purpose for each purchase. If your child cannot provide you with a reason why a particular purchase was made once the said item arrives at your house, the item was most likely bought on impulse. If you look around your child’s room and see wardrobes and shelves brimming with items that were bought that might not be necessary, your child could be shopping online and getting items delivered to your house just based on the need to feel good. Your child might not, for instance, wear the clothes that were bought and instead keep them in the wardrobe.

2. Making Online Purchases when Stressed

Shopping addiction, similar to other forms of addiction, can affect levels of mood-altering chemicals such as dopamine in the body. When your child is anxious, scared or stressed, shopping might be considered a reward or a form of pleasure-deriving activity that raises chemical levels like dopamine in your child’s body. The“reward centers” of your child’s brain would be triggered and would associate shopping with pleasure. Your child could be using shopping as a means to cope with something unpleasant, such as being alienated from friends and being cooped up at home in COVID-19 lockdown situations.

3. Hiding Purchased Merchandise

If your child has an online shopping addiction, your child might hide the numerous items purchased because of fear of getting scolded by you. You might discover a stash of unfamiliar merchandise in your child’s closet that you previously never knew of before. Admittedly, if your child is very adept at hiding stuff from you, you might find it challenging to discover such merchandise or ‘evidence’ of addiction.

4. Raking Up High Debit And Credit Card Bills

You might have noticed that the debit and credit card records of your child display significantly high bills in the last few months. When you decide to approach your child about such bills, your child might become defensive or even attempt to lie on his or her purchases. Yet, despite the numerous reasons that might seem valid at first glance, such bills persist. You might even discover that your child who is at least eighteen years old signed up for new credit cards just to fund his or her purchases as well.

5. Your Child Neglects Other Activities

Another telltale symptom of your child’s online shopping addiction is when your child neglects other activities, such as homework, household chores and even hobbies. Rather than go for a run in the park, your child might prefer surfing the Internet on a phone or laptop to shop for unnecessary items.

6. Your Child Cannot Seem to Stop Shopping

No matter how much you might try to coax your child to restrain bad shopping habits, your child cannot seem to stop his or her online shopping habits. Fights and arguments might have already broken out as a result of your child’s addiction. Instead, your child derives a sense of euphoria when shopping that evolves into a sense of guilt once the purchases are made and delivered. Worse still, you might have caught your child browsing the Internet at night even when it is past bedtime. Your child might even complain of vision problems or eye strain as a result of browsing shopping sites on digital screens for too long (more than two hours per time).

Concluding Thoughts about Online Shopping Addiction

Your child’s online shopping addiction would likely cause more disinterest in other family activities and duties. Besides accumulating increased expenditure, your child’s vision might be strained due to prolonged exposure to the digital screen. Moreover, your child’s familial and social interactions might be strained as a result. Also, online shopping addiction or compulsion might be tied to other psychological issues your child might be facing. Your child might be using online shopping as a form of self-medication to deal with stress. Therefore, when addressing your child’s online shopping addiction, treat the matter delicately in order to encourage your child to talk about the matter with you more openly.


Hartston H. (2012). The case for compulsive shopping as an addiction. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 44(1), 64–67.

Front Psychol. 2015; 6: 1374.

Published online 2015 Sep 17. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01374


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