Cash in the pocket

Are we los­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of phys­i­cal money?

EDP Norfolk - - FROM THE HEADMASTER’S OFFICE -

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!

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