Meena Gupta is an HR professional turned food blogger who lives in Basingstoke with her husband, eight-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
From talking about the value of money to setting up controls for in-app purchases, Meena shares her tips to help children develop good online money habits.
As a full-time blogger, Meena is immersed in the online world and her husband works in the IT sector. This means they are very comfortable introducing their children to the online world and ensuring they understand the basics.
“With my daughter, we started talking about what are apps, and who develops them. We then talked about how those people need money to buy things like food or clothes. When we buy something in an app, it’s real money that goes to the people who built the app,” says Meena. “The next question is who pays the money? In the same way that Mum and Dad decide what to spend when we eat out, it’s Mum or Dad who decides what we buy online.”
One way to explain this to primary school children is to show them the process of buying, for example, buying credit and purchasing something on iTunes. This is how Meena shows the children that with each purchase, the voucher credit reduces. “The whole journey helps children understand the flow of money and how they can relate to it,” she says.
At eight, Meena believes her daughter is at the right age to start learning about managing money online in a controlled environment so that she has the skills to manage her own money when she is older. “We started by giving her exposure to real money, so when we’re shopping, I might give her a £20 note and ask how much change she should have – it’s doing maths and learning about real money,” says Meena. “With online, we might agree to buy a movie as a treat, and we encourage her to follow how the transaction happens by showing the iTunes balance.”
Although Meena’s daughter knows to ask permission, the family also uses device controls to ensure she can’t spend money without realising. This includes not storing payment details on apps such as Amazon and having an alert set up on their bank account so that Meena gets a text every time her card is used. “We set our daughter’s iPhone as a ‘my child’ device in Apple so we can manage what apps and purchases she can access. We’ve set it so that you always need the password or FaceID to buy anything,” says Meena.
Meena says her daughter particularly loves to play Animal Jam and Toca World, both of which offer in-app purchases. “Over the week, she is able to earn ‘points’ that she can trade for things she wants, whether that’s a packet of sweets or an in-app purchase. The key thing Meena would advise is ensuring children know that virtual things have a ‘real’ value.
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