This Christmas has been a little rough on the Ward family. On the one hand, you love to give your children everything they want for Christmas, but on the other hand, you know that giving your child everything they want is a surefire way to spoil them. My wife even commented on how she has not had quite the same level of joy this year shopping for the kids as she has in previous years, and when you look around our house and see all the forgotten toys and gifts from Christmas past, who can blame her? You want to give your kids what they want, but you also want the gifts to be appreciated and to be edifying in some way.
Sadly, our children are growing up in an electronic age where if it doesn’t plug in or run on batteries, it doesn’t hold their attention. For the longest time, I’ve tried to resist this new world of advanced technology. I’ve shunned Facebook. I’ve pooh-poohed Twitter. I’ve refused to buy my kids a cell phone, an iPod, or even an Xbox 360 or PS3. I’ve basically said to them “If you want it, you’ll have to buy it with your own money.”
Now I’m starting to realize how cruel this sentiment is when I consider how little I’ve done to prepare them for the real world of finances. It’s not their fault that they are coming of age in a technology-based society. Rather than holding them back, maybe it’s time that I move forward.
In her recent blog post for Forbes.com, my colleague Nancy Anderson discusses how technology can actually be used to teach our children about managing money. If your kids are using smartphones and tablets, then you may appreciate some of the apps she mentions. My kids are not quite at that level, but there were a number of computer apps that my kids would be able to access. In fact, Emily Glazer wrote an article for the The Wall Street Journal titled “Kids, Let’s Play the Money Game!” that actually highlights some of these applications in more detail.
I’d love to tell you that I’ve personally used these apps, but I haven’t yet. What I am trying to tell you is that as parents, it is a lot easier for us to learn how to speak our kids’ language than it is for them to learn how to speak ours. If your kids are like mine and they love to play video games, then giving them a video game that teaches real world lessons in finance might be the best of both worlds. They enjoy the gaming aspect while I enjoy knowing that the more time they spend on the computer, the less likely they will come back to me in the future asking for financial help. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win-win.
Now, if only I could figure out how to set the clock on the VCR…