Mum of two shares her ideas on supporting children’s online spending

Sandra shares her insights on what works for her when it comes to helping her two daughters understand online currencies and what things cost online.

Helping children understand the difference between online currencies and real money

Sandra’s children are in primary school, but they are very familiar with online games and apps, and the temptation to spend money on additional game features or levels. Aware of the risk of kids running up large bills accidentally, Sandra says she has focused on teaching her daughters that the money you spend online is real money.

It’s a big challenge to help little children understand the value of money and in-game currencies, but it’s important to start young, says Sandra. “Every time my eldest asks for currency, I make a point of telling her that we need to work to buy that currency. I don’t just say it costs money; I make the point of telling her that I work for that money to buy the thing she wants. I’ll also sometimes take the money out of my purse and actually tell her – this is the money it costs to do that.”

Because Sandra’s children are still quite young, these clear and visual explanations help them to understand what money is and where it comes from. When playing games, there is a family rule that if the girls are asked to click on anything that looks like a coin or a padlock, they must always ask their mum for permission. “They don’t read very well yet, so it’s easier to tell them what to look out for,” says Sandra.

Using budgeting to help children understand how to manage money

Despite the challenges, Sandra thinks it’s important that children learn about spending money online and gain an understanding of what things cost. The family gives each child a set monthly budget of around £10 to spend online. This helps them to learn the very basics about budgeting, says Sandra. “My girls know that when the money is gone, it’s gone! But having that money gives them more autonomy and helps them to get some independence, so it’s important to them,” she says.

Chloe and Zoe are also encouraged to make choices around online spending. For example, it might be that if the family downloads an app or movie, there won’t be cookies in a café that week, or they can’t get another game a few days later. “My top tip is to always make online spending a choice where your younger children have options. They have to pick one or the other so they always know that if they’ve bought something online, they’re not going to get something else they might want later.”

Making use of parental controls to set digital boundaries

The family uses parental controls but more importantly Sandra plays with her girls, and they play with devices next to her so she can regularly check on what they’re doing. Sandra says the girls are still young enough to need supervision, but the independence of making choices will hopefully help them to form good habits as they get older. “I definitely think it’s a positive thing to let children spend and manage money online because it’s so important they learn those money management skills early.”

Sandra Igwe lives in South East London with her two daughters, Chloe and Zoe, aged three and five. She runs a social enterprise for black mothers and in her spare time is active on Instagram as @sandeeigwe

She blogs at UK Media Mummy.

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