Shape Up, Kid, Or I'll Delete Your Allowance

IF YOU TREASURE THE MEMORY OF STUFFING A PIGGY BANK FULL OF COINS and had planned to hand that tradition down to your children, brace yourself. Times have changed. The cyberallowance has arrived.

A San Francisco-based startup called BlackBox Internet Group will debut a Web site in March called iCanBuy.com--a service designed to make it easier for children to buy online. iCanBuy.com helps get around one of the Web's biggest problems--the fact that many online transactions can only be done using a credit card. The free service allows parents to use a credit card to set up an electronic debit account for their kids--either a lump sum deposit, or automatic weekly, monthly, or yearly allowances.

Parents determine spending limits and what stores can be frequented, and they can monitor each child's account. "Kids and teens didn't have the financial services that the over-18 crowd does, so we came up with a solution," says iCanBuy.com chief executive R. Paul Herman, who founded the company last year. The company plans to make money by selling advertising on its site. Bye-bye, piggy bank.

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