Archive for February 2010
The service has been adopted by a small handful of online games with target audiences in the 12-14 age group. The idea is to bypass parents, aka the keepers of the credit cards. These children can thus purchase items for their virtual pets, for example.
Now an eighth grader, on her own, can use a Kwedit Promise to buy a virtual 40-pound bag of Purina Puppy Chow. The chow exists only as a photograph of a Purina package, but FooPets instructs its users that the care and feeding of the digital pets they’ve adopted should be regarded as a serious matter. “Your FooPet is a real creature that lives online,” the company’s Web site says. It’s ontological nonsense, but the money that is paid for the pixels is certainly real.
On the one hand, kids need to learn lessons about money and credit. Perhaps if they get in over their heads, they will learn a valuable early lesson in effective money management. Better now, when there are no real consequences, than later, when they default on their mortgage. Right?
But something stinks about this, beyond the fact that 12-year-olds shouldn’t be frequenting 7-Elevens. Kids are vulnerable — they are powerfully swayed by “ontological nonsense.” (But aren’t we all?) We can’t expect them to make reasonable choices, nor can we even expect them to learn the right lesson from their errors when they make unreasonable choices.
Should corporate interests really be allowed to so directly engage minors in this way? Yes, teens can buy candy at the store on their own. But they can’t buy candy on credit. I suppose it’s legal, but there’s something wrong here I can’t put my finger on.