You have read here and here about the dangers of forced cashlessness. But it’s not forced if people already accept it. Children are already being conditioned to accept cashlessness as a way of life. Video game tokens and currency are their preferred method of payment. If you grow up using digital money, you’ll have a lot easier time accepting a world without cash. Sarah Needleman and Sarah Donaldson report in The Wall Street Journal that children would already rather have credits in their video game account balances than cold hard cash in their hands. They write:
Like many parents, Greg and Selena Robleto offered to pay their kids for doing household chores. The couple quickly learned their money was no good.
The girls wanted to be paid in Robux—the online currency in videogames from Roblox Corp.—and RBLX 0.06%increase; green up pointing triangle turned up their noses at the crinkled, paper dollars the couple was offering.
“They were handing it right back to me and saying, ‘Can you convert this to Robux?’ ” said Mr. Robleto, a 46-year-old web designer in Rockville, Md. “I don’t even need to have cash in the house. I can just go online and put $5 into their accounts.”
Kaylee Robleto, 12, recently bought a virtual Louis Vuitton handbag, while her 10-year-old sister, Ginelle, got a virtual Gucci jacket. Each item cost less than the equivalent of $5 in Robux.
“If I were to spend money in real life, I’d have to ask my parents to take me to stores,” Kaylee said. “I have control over what I buy on Roblox.”
The Robleto girls are part of a massive cohort of tech-savvy youngsters who are learning to flex their financial independence through Roblox, one of the most popular kids’ online hangouts and a place where brands are increasingly setting up shop to reach them. About half of Roblox’s 60 million daily users are under the age of 13.
Roblox and other virtual economies are changing families’ conversations about money, and helping solve the perennial parenting problem of controlling how kids spend online. Most virtual items cost less than the equivalent of $10. Parental controls implemented in recent years mean out-of-control spending by children is less of a concern than it once was. By topping up virtual wallets with a little cash, parents save money and time compared with a trip to Target and don’t have to take out their wallets for every little purchase.
“Developers quickly realized that to monetize a young audience base, they first had to cater to the needs of parents,” said Joost van Dreunen, who teaches the business of videogames at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
This is why many games including Roblox also sell virtual currency as monthly subscriptions, similar to an allowance, he said.
Children are spending more time and money in Roblox’s free-to-play, 3-D online world, a so-called metaverse where people create and engage in all sorts of virtual activities via avatars. Roblox revenues grew six times over the past three years to $1.9 billion last year—almost all of it from sales of Robux.
As adults struggle to find uses for the metaverse, kids are already immersed in the technology, as they earn and spend virtual currency while playing games and socializing on Roblox.
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