Review: Virtual Piggy makes e-commerce child’s play

The idea behind Virtual Piggy is solid: This cloud-based service, which is designed to help children shop online safely and securely, allows for communication between parents and children, and protects children from many of the dangers lurking online without zapping their sense of independence. But right now it suffers from a few glitches that may make it hard for some kids—especially those on the younger end—to use without frustration.

Virtual Piggy is free to use. Parents sign up for an account, and then create profiles for each child they’d like to use the service. This requires entering the child’s name and date of birth, and then creating a username and password for that child.

The parent can set certain parameters for the child’s online shopping, such as transaction limits (both in dollar amounts for individual transactions and per day or week), and approval settings (which means the service will notify you whenever your child makes a transaction that is either above a certain amount or with a certain merchant). You also link a payment method—a credit card or a PayPal account—to your child’s profile and set a monthly allowance, which is the maximum amount the child can spend each month.

Virtual Piggy’s child dashboard shows the user how much they have left to spend, and which merchants they’re allowed to shop at.

Virtual Piggy has relationships with a group of online retailers that sell everything from games and books to clothes and more. These retailers, which include big-ish names like Ty.com (maker of Beanie Babies) and lesser-known sites like R&R Games, have agreed to allow children to use their Virtual Piggy accounts for checkout.

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