The app that lets you spy on your chil­dren’s spend­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - YOUR MONEY -

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.

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