Cash in the pocket
Are we losing an appreciation of physical money?
The recent tragedies arising from social media have engendered declarations by UK politicians to act, headlines like ‘Keep mobile phones out of schools’ and challenges by Silicon Valley gurus, such as Roger MacNamee, to bring tech giants like Facebook and Google to account. As we know, these remarkable mobile devices are transforming our lives with many huge positives, but often in ways that we scarcely understand and with many anxieties which are widely spoken about and several which are not – yet.
About 30 years ago I remember my father telling how, in the 1960s, a special room had been set aside to install a computer. It was the size of a Luton van and did a few basic calculations. Were he alive he would not recognise the world portrayed in an excellent 300-page document, published by Ofcom in November 2017, entitled Children’s and parents’ media use and attitudes.
It reported that 5% of under sevens own their own smartphone and 35% have a tablet. A more up-to-date figure is that over 25% of children under six own a smartphone and that YouTube usage rises from 70% in this age group to 90% among those 12 and over. It is, as we know, dedicated around targeted attempts to get us to ‘want stuff’ and pay with a swipe or a finger print. The exchange is virtual and the notion of it costing actual money made abstract.
A decade ago this age group still had use of cash; saw the necessity and importance of accumulating it (a paper round, pocket money, even borrowing a fiver from the savings pot). Children saw the physical exchange of goods and the ‘pain’ of handing over cash.
With the way we increasingly pay for things online, it is more difficult to simulate this important – but-not-on-thecurriculum – life skill. So our boarders are able to buy some sweets each week (up to 50p) and the senior ones are able to go to town on Sundays and stock up with what they choose, up to the value of £3.
We humans are said to be bad at imagining numbers more than 150 – so the weight of a £1 coin or a £10 note helps make money real. While the volume of cashless transactions now dwarfs cash transactions, children getting a real and personal idea of what something costs, and the value of cash, seems still a worthwhile exercise. Let’s save up for those Easter eggs!