Virtual Allowance for In-App Purchases? Yes or No?

Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

My 6-year-old son is completely obsessed with a virtual world app called Tiny Monsters. All his friends are, too. And while his friends' parents feed their kids' iTunes accounts, enabling these tiny monsters to quickly grow into bigger ones, my son is stuck waiting and waiting for them to grow without the added boost of an in-app purchase.

When I brought up the idea of allowing our son to spend his $1 per week allowance on his favorite game, my husband was flatly against it. His reason -- that this virtual spending would nix any potential learning about money management -- seemed valid at first. If our son doesn't hold the dollar in his hand and pass it over to a cashier or slip coins into a slot, how will he understand that the money is no longer his?

But were we being old-fashioned? Isn't our society moving toward digital payments for everything? When was the last time we used actual cash for anything? And doesn't our son need to learn how to manage money in whatever form it comes?

Another mom suggested we were being control freaks by dictating what our son could spend his allowance on. "Isn't the point of allowance to let him make his own decisions about how he spends his money?" she asked. Good point, I thought, but I wouldn't let him spend his allowance on guns or 10 pounds of candy. Is this different?

Ultimately, we decided to hold off on letting him use his allowance on the game. It's not a forever decision, but for now, given the impulsive nature of his personality, we want him to have a bit more experience with spending on tangible goods first. And hopefully he'll soon be mature enough to think through his financial decisions with care, rather than be at the mercy of a game designed to entice him to spend, spend, spend.

How does your family handle in-app purchases or spending on digital goods, like music or downloadable games?

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