The app that lets you spy on your children’s spending
It’s not just children’s internet usage and social media accounts that parents want to oversee. How they spend and manage money is also a worry. Simply handing over a banknote or two offers little in the way of control or oversight. Software developers have come up with a solution in the form of Nimbl, a children’s spending app for smartphones. It lets parents transfer their children a set amount of “pocket money” every week and then see what they spend it on via their own Mastercard debit card.
Nimbl is not the first pocket money app to be launched – but it’s aimed not just at young children but university students, and has users reaching into their 20s.
The company claims to have found that 65pc of young people would actively welcome their parents setting limits on their spending (though Telegraph Money suspects that some respondents may have carried out the survey with parental supervision!).
Do Nimbl and other equivalent services, such as Osper and Go Henry, encourage financial responsibility? Or do they infantilise youngsters by taking decisions away from them?
Dave Walden, 51, who works in sales and lives in Taunton, Somerset, uses Nimbl with his two children Oliver, 14, and Imogen, 12. He has set up a payment of £2 a week pocket money which is topped up with ad hoc cash – and he claims both children have found that it has improved their saving habits.
Mr Walden said: “I’ve noticed a shift in their behaviour. Beforehand you’d give them money and they’d go out and spend it, but now you can see money accumulating – they’re saving it up for things.
“I’ve given them quite a lot of freedom. We haven’t used the spending limits because they don’t spend much.”
Oliver has managed to save up more than £50 in the five months since the family has used the app, which he says he’ll most likely spend on tech gadgets. He said: “Beforehand I’d have Parents could also use this feature to halt a spending spree they don’t approve of. The cards are automatically blocked from being used at pubs, gambling sites and inappropriate websites and shops. The concept taps in to many parents’ concerns that their children are growing up without a proper understanding of the value of money. Every so often a parent makes the headlines because their child has blithely run up an enormous bill on their iPad playing Angry Birds or watching YouTube videos. The idea of the app is that children learn, early on, that they are spending real money. And these children will grow up in an age when most of their money management will take place via apps and the internet – so the app’s founders argue that it makes sense for them to get used to this from an early age. All very well for young children, but there are doubtless many teenagers who would be horrified at the idea of their parents seeing exactly what they spend money on.
Conversely, the app could be seen as evidence of parents’ greater financial influence over their children’s lives, even after they reach adulthood.
James Daley, managing director of consumer rights group Fairer Finance, said that for older children it could have the opposite of the intended effect.
“There’s a danger that this starts to remove responsibility from the individual. What we want is for individuals to be taking responsibility for their money and making the right decisions.
“It could allow people to not learn and instead to abdicate responsibility – they’re sitting in the safety net of allowing someone else to make their decisions for them,” he said.
Nimbl and its rivals are not the only “nanny apps” out there.
Car insurers now allow parents to track their grown-up children’s driving using “black box” telematics technology, which sends them an alert when their child is speeding.
Mr Daley said: “It’s quite Big Brother, but that seems to be the way things are going.
“I’d imagine that whatever way we come up with to track spending tomorrow’s kids will find a way around it somehow – it’s better to build trust and good relationships.”
This father is introducing his son to managing money via a smartphone app. Olivia Rudgard explains ‘I’ve noticed a shift in their behaviour – now they save’
There are some charges. An account is free for three months and costs £10 a year per child after that. A household can have up to four.
Children get one free cash machine withdrawal each month. It costs 49p after that.
Topping a child’s account up directly using a debit card costs 15p, terminating an account costs £2.50, and replacing a lost or stolen card costs £5.