Reviews | How to separate parents from their money
As soon as my eldest daughter started playing the online world-building game Roblox, she started begging for Robux, the in-game currency, that cost real dollars. having read many stories of how kids accidentally spent lots of money on add-ons like virtual pets with “ultra rare” or “legendary” statusI refused to buy into this scheme. No, honey, I won’t spend my hard-earned US dollars on a queen bee who will probably end up working at a fast food joint in your adopt-me universe.
This week, I was reminded of my uncompromising stance when I read Amanda Hess’ delightful article, “Does a Toddler Need an NFT?” (Spoiler: Probably not!) Through Hess’ article, I heard about “Zigazoo, an app for kids as young as 3 that bills itself as “the largest social network and NFT platform for the children in the world”. an NFT, bitcoin or the blockchain is, here is an explainer for you. I can tell you that when I tried to explain NFTs to my 9 year old daughter, she said: “This looks like Pokemon cards,” which…isn’t quite wrong?
Zigazoo also has an in-app currency called Zigabucks. According to Hess, apps like this sell parents on the idea that their illiterate children need a place to express their creativity and learn financial literacy, while preparing to work for big tech. Or something.
In my mind, this is just the latest way tech companies have tried to separate parents from their wallets. I’ve probably already quoted this article, because I love it so much, but in 2013, Virginia Heffernan wrote about her 7-year-old son accumulate in-app purchases on the iTunes Store-enabled DragonVale game, Apple’s “hellish river casino and meth lab.”
Arguably spending money on Robux or Zigabucks is no more frivolous than spending it on LOL Surprise dolls, which I bought for my kids – I keep stepping on the little shoes and removable outfits dolls scattered around my house. But at least LOL dolls don’t claim to teach my daughters anything in particular, except maybe if those earrings go with those sunglasses.
In other Times news this week: Moderna seeks emergency use authorization for its Covid vaccine for children under 6, Sharon LaFraniere reports. David Leonhardt explains why the approval process for a vaccine for the smallest children has been so confusing and frustrating. Last week, Matt Richtel went deeper into America’s teenage mental health crisis. Emily Gould talks to parents who have been scarred by the chaos of the pandemic and changed their minds about having more children.
Finally, in Opinion, a former Times travel columnist, Matt Gross, argues for a more passive approach to parenting. He writes of his two daughters:
I sure hope that Sasha and her 9-year-old sister, Sandy, will follow in my metaphysical footsteps, one way or another. Ideally, they will become polyglot globetrotters with predilections for spicy food, subtly funky fashion and making new friends. But as long as they don’t end up greedy, selfish, or leading a fascist personality cult (I’m looking at you, Sandy), Jean and I will be fine.
It’s a philosophical approach that I endorse, even if it’s easier to agree than to follow. To that end, I told my eldest daughter that while I wouldn’t pay for her Robux and I think buying them is kind of a bad deal, if she wants to use her allowance to pay for them, she can. So far she’s preferred to spend it on a personalized water bottle, but if one day she can’t resist the allure of an NFT water bottle, I won’t stop her.
Parenthood can be a chore. Let’s celebrate the small victories.
We struggled to teach our almost 2 year old the concept of sharing. My little victory finally came when I went to change her dirty diaper and she yelled, “No! Dad’s turn!
—Carrie Norman, New Orleans
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