America Online scraps teen shopping

America Online has banned teens from its shopping areas, following criticism that the proprietary online service allowed young adults to buy pornography, alcohol and tobacco from partner sites. AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said Monday that as of last week, customers under the age of 18 cannot shop on AOL with partner stores, including auctioneer eBay and retailer Amazon.com. Previously, children ages 13 to 17 who signed onto the service with a parentally controlled screen name could buy products and services with a credit card at AOL partner stores.

While many of the products may have been acceptable to parents, teens were also able to find and purchase alcohol, tobacco and pornographic material.

"Our partners provide a huge range of products, of overwhelmingly quality goods...but there are potentially some objectionable products that parents may wish their children not see when they are using the AOL service," AOL's Graham said. "By blocking the child's access to the shopping area at this time, we hope it would encourage more parental involvement."

According to Graham, about 16 million members log onto the service with a parentally controlled screen name. While not all those users may shop, the teen ban could still crimp AOL's revenue just as the holiday shopping season heats up. AOL, the online unit of media giant AOL Time Warner, does not have plans to lift the ban.

The drastic move plugs a potential leak in AOL's highly touted parental controls, which have become a central selling point for AOL as it battles with Microsoft's MSN service.

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News source: c|net

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