Online safety / December 02, 2021

6 ways kids are making money online

Nimmi Kanji

Nimmi Kanji

Director - Social Purpose Programs, For Good and TELUS Wise

Teenager using a laptop

Before the internet, if kids wanted to make money, they had to settle for newspaper routes, babysitting or retail jobs. But in the digital age, there are plenty of opportunities to earn income online.

While there are many benefits to kids earning money – financial literacy, taking on responsibility and gaining independence to name a few – there are also digital safety concerns if kids choose to make money online.

In this article, we profile 6 ways kids are earning money online – both the productive and perilous.

#1: Swagbucks

Founded in 2008, Swagbucks is a free rewards service that allows users to earn gift cards or cash for things they already do online. Kids can shop, watch videos, search the web, answer surveys and find deals to earn points.

Points are known as “SB.” 100 SB earns $1 Canadian in rewards. Users can then redeem their points for free gift cards from large online retailers or get cash back from PayPal. Kids have to be 13 years or older to use the platform.

Wise tip: Always review and discuss a platform’s privacy policy with your child. It will tell you what personal information can be collected, including their usernames, location, credit card numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers. If your child installs the Swagbucks browser extensions, the company will also have access to their browser activity.

#2: Selling stuff online

Kids can sell anything from used clothes and jewelry to art and photographs online. In the past several years, sneakers have become a highly popular resale marketplace. According to Fast Company, the resale sneaker market was $79 billion in 2020, and it’s projected to reach $120 billion by 2026.

Not every kid who trades some Jordans online will become a millionaire. But some kids with good connections and even better hustle have really cashed in. Benjamin Kickz, also known as the “Sneaker Don,” started reselling in-demand sneakers when he was 13 to make money to buy more sneakers. Now 21, his customers include high profile rappers and athletes including DJ Khaled, Drake, Bad Bunny and Odell Beckham Jr. He is estimated to have a net worth of approximately $2 million.

Wise tip: When buying or selling something online, take the proper safety precautions - children should never meet with buyers without having a trusted adult join them and remember to meet in a safe, public place and use a protected form of payment.

#3: Fiverr

Fiverr is a marketplace for freelance services. Kids, as young as 13, can participate in the platform. Services include graphics and design, writing, video and animation and music and audio. It is important to note that Fiverr takes 1/5 of any freelancer’s final profit on a service, and it typically takes 2 weeks to receive payment.

Jesse Hall is a high school student that runs TechUnmasked. He loves video production so decided to start a “gig” on Fiverr to create intros for YouTube videos. He titled his gig, “I will create the perfect YouTube intro.” Within 2 months, he had 40 orders.

Wise tip: Fiverr provides a secure payment platform within their site to help their users transact safely. Sellers can easily withdraw their earnings and it’s therefore very important to keep account credentials safe. Remind your kids to never share their account passwords.

#4: Social media influencer/YouTuber

Social media sensations are growing in number by the day. In fact, Fast Company estimated the value of the Instagram influencer business in 2020 at $5 - $10 billion. And kid influencers (and their parents) are jumping on the bandwagon. According to Fast Company, influencers reportedly earn $100 per 1,000 followers for a sponsored post. So those with millions of followers can earn $15,000 or more for a single post.

While it takes time and dedication to build a loyal, engaged audience or subscriber base, there are kids on these social platforms making millions. Take for example Ryan Kaji who has been operating his Ryan’s World channel since 2018. He has 30 million subscribers and is making $30 million a year reviewing kids’ toys, doing DIY science experiments and making prank videos. His most popular video, Huge Eggs Surprise Toys Challenge has more than 2 billion views.

Wise tip: Most social media platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, but many younger kids find ways to use these platforms. Be involved in your kids’ online lives and help them find a healthy balance between online and offline activities.

#5: Roblox

Designed as a platform for kids to create and play their own virtual games, Roblox definitely has an underside. In a September 2021 article, Rolling Stone profiles the underground strip club scene associated with the platform.

The article tells the story of 16-year old high school student “Katie” whose Roblox alter ego, Valarie, goes to virtual strip clubs, gives lap dances and frequents “condo games” (sexually explicit games that bypass roblox's moderation) for virtual sex with anonymous players. Katie states that, “I mainly do it for the attention – negative attention, positive attention, sexual attention – honestly, it’s all the same.”

There is no direct exchange of funds on the platform but players sell digital shirts for Robux, the platform’s currency, which can be converted into real world money. While many experts are ambivalent about the danger of virtual sexual experimentation, they caution about the danger of interactions on the platform crossing over into real life.

Wise tip: Talk regularly with your kids about their online activities and ask questions about the games they play. Consider establishing household rules about where your kids can use their devices; using them in a public space in your home can help keep kids safe, versus allowing them to use their devices behind closed doors.

#6: Exchanging photos for money

Despite all the Internet safety talks parents have with their kids, predators and groomers are still finding ways to target kids. An article on highlights the trend of kids selling pictures of their feet online for real money – sometimes up to $25 per week. While there aren’t any faces in the photos, the feet fetishists are still asking for personal information to be able to send the money. The article also raises red flags about grooming. The feet pictures could be the first ask to establish the relationship and trust. The next ask could be more explicit photos.

Wise tip: Have ‘the’ talk with your kids about acceptable online activities, and often. They should steer clear of sending any pictures of themselves (or body parts) to anyone they don’t know online. Also, remind your kids they should never respond to requests for contact from anyone they don’t know face-to-face, in real life. People can pretend to be anyone they want when hiding behind a screen.

Like any activities online, there are positives and negatives to kids earning money in our digital world. If kids want to take advantage of online opportunities to earn their own money, the adults in their lives have to remain curious and encourage open conversation. If you have kids who are earning money online, ask a lot of questions often. Find out what kind of work they are doing and how much they are making. The more you encourage their industriousness and get curious, the more likely they will be to share with you and take your guidance on digital safety.

Kids & tech
Apps & gaming
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