Board Games' Use of 'Digital Money' Worries Some EducatorsDec. 3, 2008
While electronic banking versions of popular board games, such as MONOPOLY and The Game of Life, can simulate "real life" monetary transactions, two Baylor University professors wonder if it could be potentially problematic for younger children, from basic counting to money management.
"My concern would be in the developmental appropriateness [of such games]," says Dr. Trena L. Wilkerson, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Baylor University's School of Education and director of GEAR UP Waco's Math Initiative, which engages rising seventh graders in mathematical explorations and projects.
While transactions can be done "electronically" - in real life as well as on a game board - Wilkerson says young children tend to think literally rather than abstractly. "They may benefit from seeing, handling and manipulating actual dollars and coins, even if it is play money. It connects learning to real life experiences, which is a key component in student learning."
Wilkerson said the use of money is one of the areas used in teaching counting to young children. "It reflects our decimal system and aids in relating to place value and decimal understanding. It also contributes to a student's development of problem-solving abilities and helps students understand values, such as learning to make change and purchasing," she says.
But what is more important, Wilkerson says, is that young children understand the actual use and value of money in relation to what "real thing" represents - what it buys, how and why to save it and when to spend it.
"It is beneficial for young children to learn about earning, budgeting, saving and giving. They're learning to be 'smart' consumers, who are beginning to understand their role in the economy and develop an awareness of being a good steward," Wilkerson said.
Baylor marketing professor James A. Roberts, who studies consumer behavior, particularly credit card use and compulsive buying among younger adults, says kids don't often get the connection between plastic credit and debit cards and the money you have to earn to be able to use the cards. He says kids often see "plastic" as a "magic money tree."
"Giving credit cards to adolescents and children makes spending and management of money even more abstract for them," he said. "We've found that adults or teenagers who use credit cards are less price sensitive, spend more and over-estimate their available wealth compared to those who write checks or pay cash."
Roberts' research shows that about 10 percent of Millennials (born between 1978-2000) are compulsive buyers, which is nearly double that of Generation X and three to four times higher than the Baby Boomer generation.