eBay's next target: The under-18 crowd

The company says it's working on ways it can bring children in on the auction mix, while still preserving parental controls.

eBay has historically been a place for adults to buy and sell goods. But in the coming months, kids might make their way to the service.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal in an interview published today, eBay's president of global marketplaces, Devin Wenig, said his company is currently working on plans to allow kids under 18 years old to establish accounts and start participating in auctions.

Aware of the obvious privacy and parental implications, Wenig told the Journal that the accounts would be opened only with parental authorization. Wenig said eBay would not allow "a 15-year-old unfettered access to the site," adding that parents would have strict controls over what their kids can and cannot access.

Getting children into the habit of using online services has become a key strategy for many online companies. Facebook, for example, is reportedly mulling plans to allow under-13-year-old children onto its site , though it hasn't made any indication it'll happen soon.

For Web companies, bringing kids into the mix can present both a short-term boost to business and a long-term market to tap into. However, while customers are still kids, companies need to tread lightly, since privacy concerns and unsafe communication with other users can become major sticking points for detractors.

Realizing this, Wenig was quick to point out in his Journal interview that eBay hasn't made a final decision on bringing children to its service. If the company does go ahead with the plan, it would likely take as many as nine months before it starts offering the accounts.

eBay recently announced that it generated a profit of $692 million during the second quarter on $3.4 billion in revenue. Its profit more than doubled last year's $283 million in net income.

 

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