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Credit cards in children’s games do not teach careful spending

Sure. They have special edition Monopoly games for pretty much whatever you are into. There is the SpongeBob SquarePants edition, the Transformers Collector’s edition, the Disney edition, even the Boston Red Sox World Series Champions Collector’s edition.

I have nothing against Monopoly games.

I think they are actually a fairly good way to teach kids about money, except that the newest version is called the Electronic Banking edition. Its commercial has a girl talking about how fast she can play the game now. “Fast and without cash. That’s how I play,” she says.

Besides taking the fun out of the game by taking away paper money, I think this can give kids the wrong idea about how valuable money is. If they learn that a swipe of a card is all it takes to buy whatever they want, they will be in for a big surprise when they get out into the real world.

Another trendy toy on the market is the Barbie Fashion Fever Shopping Boutique Play Set. It comes with a pink shiny fake credit card so you can let Barbie shop until she drops. But instead of ever having the card get rejected for insufficient funds, kids can go on shopping forever without a credit card limit.

If kids learn there are never any negative consequences for using credit cards for whatever they want, how responsible will they be when they are old enough to get a credit card of their own?

And then there is the worst product of all that is geared toward young girls.

The Hello Kitty debit card.

The popular children’s brand is available as a MasterCard debit card. This sounds ridiculous, considering you must be at least 18 to sign up for a card.

A vice president for Sanrio Inc., owner of Hello Kitty products, told the Washington Post their target age group for the credit card is about 10 to 14. So they are hoping parents will sign up for the card to “teach their children how to manage their finances.”

I think that is absolutely ridiculous. Children should have fun being kids, not pretend to be adults and use credit cards.

Lately, we have been warned about dangerous toys that may contain lead and put young children at health risks. But we are not really warned about the kind of values certain toys may be teaching children.

I’m sure these toy manufacturers are just trying to keep up with the times and modern technology. But I think some sort of disclaimer should be included with the toys to warn parents and children of the dangers of using credit cards for trivial purchases.

Of course, parents (probably) hold the most responsibility for teaching their own children how to be financially responsible. But parents will need to beware of toys like these when children are at a vulnerable age where impressions they get from these games may carry over into their life.

It is important for parents to draw the line between games and real life.

After all, who are kids going to expect to bail them out of financial jams when they are older?

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