My six-year old has never shown so much interest in my occupation.
He’s deduced, you see, that the more work I do, the more money I have, which means the greater the potential he has to prise that money from my virtual palms and use it to buy gems in a hideously addictive game called “Monster Legends”, which he somehow found on the iPad.
From the point of view of his mental health, this is a terrible game. He isn’t allowed much iPad time, and yet the small amount he does get is enough for him to have become hooked on it. It involves using gold and gems to build lands, battle with monsters and feed your own monsters ready for the next battle, or something.
Despite how much I loathe this game and his apparently growing addiction to it, part of me is also quite pleased he enjoys it so much, because he has never been so willing to so quickly absorb financial lessons from me. It’s Global Money Week, so there’s a lot of talk about how to help young children understand financial lessons so they don’t make the great collective F’up we all did (or maybe it was just me) when they enter adult life.
We’ve done all sorts. Pocket money that rises or falls in line with behaviour. His own GoHenry card, which we keep forgetting to use because we still use our own, piggy banks… I’m sure plenty of it goes in, but his interest level is maybe, I don’t know, 50%. But in this game, his interest level is 100% and at breaking point.
As a result of this game, he has tried to work out or learned by himself:
a) how quickly I can earn £4.99 (the price of 65 gems), by asking me for my hourly rate then dividing this by £4.99
b) how long it takes to build your coffers back up (in this case, of gems) after making silly purchasing decisions (such as a not very good monster)
c) how upsetting it is when you lose a lot of something you had spent a long time building up, particularly when it is your own fault
d) how hard it is to earn things yourself through hard work rather than have them bought for you
e) how to wait for pocket money
f) how to go without some things that you want less now, in order to get something more valuable that you really want in future
g) how things that cost the same can have a different value to different people
h) how hard it is to give up a lot of money that is your own (pocket money), in order to pay for something, even if you really want that thing
i) that if he does jobs for me, or anyone else with economic authority, he will eventually be rewarded
He has learned all of this because, despite it being hideously addictive, the game is highly entertaining – I can’t take that away from it, no matter how much the theme tune makes me want to lock myself in a soundproof cupboard.
The truth is, children are learning all the time. Even when you think they are killing off brain cells through TV, iPads, etc, provided they are watching or playing something that teaches them a lesson that can be applied to other areas of life, then they will be learning. And if you help them to interpret their experience by talking about it (and boy, have we talked a lot about the price of gems in this house), they will get more life lessons out of it.
I’ve used this blasted game as a platform to explain how and why I am already saving up for his university education, even though he is only 6 (like gems, university costs a lot and it takes ages to save up for it, etc etc).
It has, in short, taught him the value of money, whether that’s mine or his; the effort and energy required to earn that money and the thought and care it takes to then use it wisely.
I’m not saying you should all sign your children up to Monster Legends instantly (God forbid, I don’t want that on my conscience). But do look for the things they already enjoy, and see if there isn’t some lesson or other you can squeeze in there somehow.