Every few days my 8 year old son asks Neal if he can “make money” on Roblox, a popular online video game platform.
That’s his way of suggesting that I’ll buy him Robux, the platform’s currency, in return for doing a term paper or an additional academic assignment.
I usually turn these requests down, but his persistence made me wonder if the games taught him some personal finance lessons, such as how to budget a scarce resource – Robux – and whether his practice in this virtual world might help him get into to find your way around the real world. Will he waste less money if he has already practiced stretching his Robux budget?
Some experts say an emphatic “yes”.
Mark Mazzu, a former banker and stockbroker who teaches on the online education platform Outschool, uses Minecraft, another popular video game, to help kids learn about business.
“You see how they act naturally; they get that, ”he says. “Negotiate, act, buy, sell – it’s fantastic.”
But financial literacy experts also say that whether or not children really get money tuition through video games depends largely on how parents talk to them about their online experience.
In his online courses, Mazzu and his students raise the question of how to keep money safe.
“I ask them, ‘What does a bank do?’ and transition into a Minecraft discussion, ”he says. “‘How do you keep your things safe in Minecraft?’ ”
In the game, for example, players use chests that keep valuable items safe – similar to a bank account.
That can lead to a discussion about saving. Mazzu suggests putting it in a relatable way: “When you buy 64 pieces of coal or cobblestone, you don’t want to use everything you find. You want to put it away. Why don’t you put 10% in a chest and use the rest? ”Says Mazze. “It’s a great way to teach kids how to save.”
Laura Vanderkam, author of “Off the Clock” and mother of five children under 15, says her children took cash lessons from the Roblox game Theme Park Tycoon, where players build and run an amusement park.
“There are a lot of actual business allocation decisions that kids wouldn’t make in real life unless they ran a serious lemonade stand,” says Vanderkam.
She says parents can bring these lessons home by asking kids about the games and drawing parallels with the real world.
“People are obsessed with the negatives of screen time, but there are a lot of cool lessons to learn,” says Vanderkam.
Susan Beacham, CEO and founder of Money Savvy Generation, a financial education company, says video games often emphasize shallow purchases, like virtual decorations or dressing up an avatar. Parents can also address the shortcomings of the games, such as currencies that can only be spent, not invested, donated or saved in an interest-bearing account.
“If you want them to learn a lesson, you have to talk to them about it,” she says.
Beacham also suggests that kids make money or use their pocket money to buy virtual currency to play with.
“Children take your money all day,” she says. “You have to create scarcity and give them a choice. If you spend your own money, that’s different. “
Then she suggests asking and asking if the cost was worth the benefit: “Now teach your child about money and value.”
Jeff Haynes, senior editor, web and video games at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit promoting safe technology and media for children and families, says the money class can begin even before the game is played. Children need to consider how much games cost and why they prefer one game to another.
Haynes suggests that parents point out the possible compromises by asking, for example, “Why do you want this for this game over something else? How are you going to save to get it? “
Now when Neal asks me about Robux, I think about how I can make sure he really deserves that currency. I want him to internalize the idea that, like real money, Robux is a scarce resource and not a given. Apart from the fact that he earns the Robux through housework or additional homework, I ask him to explain what he gets from the purchase and why it is worth it.
He is convinced that this strategy will work: “It teaches me not to use too much Robux, and in tycoon games I have learned to save for really expensive things.”