With technology the wheel that keeps businesses spinning, evidence shows there’s a foundation for mobile applications to make a big effect on kids, too. A 2011 study of mobile technology in Egypt, Japan, India and Paraguay by GSMA and NTT DOCOMO’s Mobile Society Research Institute found that:
- 70 percent of kids own mobile phones
- Kids prefer texting applications when communicating with each other
- 40 percent of kids access the Internet via mobile phones
- 73 percent use mobile applications for social networking
In other words, today’s kids understand how mobile devices and apps work—they’re especially focused on using them to stay connected. Money-savvy parents and guardians can tap into this fact when providing financial education for kids.
As an example, let’s say you were teaching your child about interest rates. Your child could use a mobile calculator application to run quick calculations and make some comparisons based on scenarios you give. In the same way, your child could use a mobile browser to access their bank’s website and track their account balance. The same browser could also be the portal to real-time stock prices or articles about finance. Calendar applications could give your child reminders about deposits or paying a bill, or you could use text chat with your child to discuss a potential purchase. bankaroo is a unique mobile application that, although not working with “real” money like a bank, allows kids to track actual savings, monitor spending, set financial goals and even learn about charitable giving. This application is unique in that parents can be actively involved, handling financial tasks related to money education for kids such as distributing allowances.
Even though mobile applications aren’t necessarily a replacement for traditional financial education tools such as books, they offer something many old-school tools cannot: convenience. It’s difficult to find time to sit down and go over finances in the same place at the same time even as an adult, so having mobile applications that keep financial information accessible 24/7 is important for kids who are trying to learn money concepts and tasks. Two more pluses are the speed at which kids can access data or do calculations and the sheer amount of data kids can get through browsers, e-readers and similar apps.
Of course, in the universal fight to give kids what they need to succeed financially, every Jedi has its Darth. Mobile apps may provide a ton of information about money to your kids, but they also might collect and distribute personal data or show—safety and privacy are big issues for all mobile applications for kids, not just ones that help with finance. Secondly, kids can get and share financial information quickly, but the technology of mobile applications changes just as fast—your child will need to learn new apps for new devices as a result, or at the very least, update the applications they have. Lastly, even though mobile apps are around day and night, too many apps can be overwhelming and sometimes actually make the financial education process more complicated.
Considering how kids are using mobile devices and applications, and thinking about both the benefits and drawbacks mobile applications have for money education, mobile applications might not suit the needs of every child. If you do choose to jump on the mobile app bandwagon, just be sure you know all the apps your child is using, and be aware that not all mobile applications are available for free (paid applications typically include more features). This will make it much easier to communicate financial ideas, stay on the same page for money tasks, and most importantly, keep your child safe.