If you really think about it, you could probably spend the rest of life and never have to handle physical currency again. Sure we buy goods and services everyday but if you’re like most Americans you probably carry around your debit or credit card for these everyday purchases. So are websites that have virtual currency teaching children that money is as easily earned as spent?
Common Sense Media explains that every family has different values about money, and it’s important for parents to give their own advice to their kids. Online sites can complicate how kids learn about money because their main purpose is to encourage getting and spending. On these sites, children assess their personal value solely on the amount of money they have. This quickly gets out of hand. Kids go online to find codes or “cheats” that allow them to gain unlimited amounts of money, gaining unlimited value.
Making sure that we teach our children that money is earned is very important. Here are some topics to discuss with your kids:
· Use the virtual currency to teach the value of money. Point out that money isn’t gained without effort. While kids trade tips and tricks for getting more money on the sites, you can explain how a job is also an excellent source of income. Since these kids are too young for real paid employment, consider letting them earn an allowance for doing chores around the house.
· Point out that spending is optional. Even though the sites make it unappealing to play without purchasing, tell your kids that they can still do it. Saving isn’t a bad thing.
· Explain how spending is encouraged. Show your kids all the ways the sites encourage them to “buy.” Kids quickly figure out that the more time they spend on a site, the more money they eventually get.
· Detach purchase from pleasure. Ask your children whether they feel they have more fun when they’re buying and spending. Try to detach the act of purchasing from pleasure. Remember, kids become teens all too quickly, and you don’t want spending to be one of their emotional coping skills.
· Point out greed. When someone’s more motivated by the desire to get more than play more, there’s a word for that. And you might as well teach it to your child. Greedy behavior has been known to occur on these sites and has even resulted in cheating.
· Talk about saving versus spending. Help kids feel good about saving for things. Talk about your own values when it comes to saving and spending.
· Envy is real. Just sit with an 8-year-old who’s walked into another girl’s igloo on Club Penguin and sees everything she dreams of owning. The urge to keep up with the Joneses starts young. Talk to your kids about times when you’ve felt envy about someone else’s home or possessions, and how you coped with it. This lesson will need repeating in some way every year, but it’s never too early to start.
Money isn’t always a comfortable topic to discuss, especially with your children. Explaining to your kids that money is earned by hard work is the key to establishing good financial habits. Games that involve virtual currency aren’t bad but making sure that kids don’t translate those habits to real finances is very important.