Every few days, my 8-year-old son, Neal, asks if he can “earn something” on Roblox, a popular online video game platform. That’s his way of suggesting I buy him Robux, the platform’s currency, in exchange for him doing a chore or extra academic assignment.
While I usually decline these requests, his persistence made me wonder if the games are teaching him some personal finance lessons, such as how to budget a scarce resource — Robux — and whether his practice in this virtual world could help him navigate the real one. Will he be less likely to squander actual dollars if he’s already practiced stretching his Robux budget?
Some experts answer with an emphatic “yes.” Mark Mazzu is a former banker and stockbroker who teaches at the online educational platform Outschool. He uses Minecraft, another popular video game, to help kids learn about economics. “You see them trade naturally; they get that. Negotiating, trading, buying, selling — it’s fantastic,” he says.
But financial literacy experts also say that whether kids really pick up money lessons through video games depends largely on how parents talk with them about their online experience. Here are four conversations to have to help your video-game-loving kids develop real money skills.
How to build a financial safety net
In his online classes, Mazzu raises the issue of how to keep money safe with his students. “I ask them, ‘What does a bank do?’ and transition into a Minecraft discussion. ‘How do you keep your things safe inside of Minecraft?’” In the game, players use chests, for example, which keeps valuable items safe — much like a bank account does.