My children have no qualms about spending seven quid on buying imaginary 'jewels' for their dragons for a game. Spending seven pounds on my credit card, I should add. As their focus is fixed solely on completing the game, I wonder if they have any concept of money: real, physical money. The Office of Fair Trading reckon that parents have lost £30million thanks to children's unauthorised payments, which is easy to believe.
A recent survey found that a fifth of children know how to use their parents' credit card details to buy things online. Of course they do - this is a tech savvy generation. However, I have a real concern as a parent that as money becomes more 'digital', so we lose a sense of what it is. For example, when we were young, we put money in a piggy bank. You could physically see it building up and then once you had a pile, you could go and spend it on comics and sweets etc. Nowadays the physicality is disappearing; so a call to arms. How do we make money more real or how do you make money more analogue in a digital age?
Everyone remembers their first job and their first pay packet as it symbolised freedom and independence. But this could potentially disappear with the rise of digital currencies. Even the Office of Fair Trading is scratching its head about this after cracking down on games that pressure children into spending hundreds of pounds when playing online. Research found that these games often blurred the distinction between spending virtual currency and real money.
Part of the problem is that banks need to engage with making money meaningful against the tide of digital currency, such as Bitcoins. So it is all very well having 'tap and go' but are we devaluing money for today's young by making it so easy to access? This problem will only increase as mobile wallets become mainstream and our kids are using e-shekels to buy donuts. I may be digital dad and lover of all things futuristic but I worry that my kids will lose perspective on the value of pound coins, our history of money bartering, the gold standard - even the value of the minimum wage.
I'm not the only who feels this - the LA photographer Megan Miller has done a photo project (featured in Wired) about Bitcoins. This includes pictures of what people are buying and Casascius coins mint - they store the cryptography key, which lets you spend or transfer your Bitcoins. Does this signal that we want physicality to our digital currency? I think so.
So here's a proposal. Why not create a money app to count out coins? It will remind today's tap and go generation that pennies make pounds and we could introduce a competitive maths element to it - just to keep the gaming generation interested.