Should You Allow Your Teen to Register for Gifts Online?

An Interview with Nancy Lee, President of

Helping teens with gift registries
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A new trend is popping up among young people these days – signing up for gifts through a gift registry. Although this rite of passage used to be preserved for weddings or baby showers, many of today’s teens are registering online for the latest gadgets and hottest items.

To learn more about teens and gift registries, I interviewed Nancy Lee. Not only is she the mother of two teenage boys, but she's also the president of, the world’s largest gift registry system in the world.

Amy Morin: Some parents have mixed feelings about gift registries for teens. They worry that allowing a teen to create a registry is a bit rude or that it fuels a teen's sense of entitlement. What do you say to those parents? 

Nancy Lee: People need to be comfortable with having their teens set up gift registries. Keep in mind that no one is saying that you have to buy off of the registry. A registry is providing gift suggestions. Keep in mind that, in the end, when the purchaser buys something not on the registry, there is always the high possibility that it is going to be returned.

By allowing teens to set up registries, they are expressing their interests and style while noting items that they do not already have. Since teens have definitive tastes, it is not easy to go out and buy a gift at a department store when you don’t know size or taste. Think of the registry as a form of expression.

Morin: What's the proper etiquette when it comes to gift registries and teens?

Lee: If someone asks if your teen has a gift registry - absolutely tell. More and more people are using electronic announcements/invitations and having a polite link that might say “gift suggestions.” This is not in poor taste in any way.

It is always nice to create a registry with a preface on it, “Here are a few things that I love. Look forward to seeing you at the party.” 

By creating an appreciative outlook, it will not look as if you are expecting the purchaser to buy to select something off the list. However, since you are making it so much easier for people, chances are they will choose to use the registry.

Morin: What types of events or holidays are teens registering for?

Lee: We see registries for Quinceaneras, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and Sweet Sixteens as well as for Christmas and High School Graduation - especially in communities across the country where there are a lot of those special events. Parents don’t know what to get the other kids since their teens are going from event to event, party to party. 

Both boys and girls love their strong points. For example, not everyone would know the tech items teens have or don’t have or what game console they are using. When teens make a registry for the events and holidays, they can be clear on what they want versus what they already have.

Therefore, there are less returns. For girls who love jewelry, makeup, and apparel - they want what they want. 

Morin: How involved should parents be in determining what a teen registers for? Should parents create price limits? Should parents limit what types of gifts a teen registers for?

Lee: Parents need to understand that their involvement in determining what a teen registers for has a lot to do with the age of the teen. You can’t tell a 17-year-old going off to college what to put on the registry, but you will want to tell your 13-year-old what is appropriate and what is not. Before anyone else sees the registry, the parents should review and make sure the choices are appropriate.

When it comes to price limits, you never know how much someone plans on spending on a gift. Have a variety of price ranges so that the gift giver has options on spending. What is an appropriate amount to one person may not be appropriate to someone else. Oftentimes, relatives including grandparents will want to spend more on a gift, so amount spent will be based on that person’s relationship to the recipient. 

Morin: What advice do you have for a teen who wants to create a registry?

Lee: Don’t hesitate! Gift registries help to clarify the things you want by letting friends and family see your tastes and color schemes and what type of stores you like. It is OK to put gift cards on your registry to your favorite stores. Registries make life so much easier for friends and family.

As they say, gift registries are not just for baby and bridal anymore.

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