Pocket money is like a double-edged sword. While it has become nearly inevitable, and may provide an opportunity for plenty of lessons for the child, psychiatrists say, unmonitored money spending may even lead to deviant behaviour among children.
“Nearly every child gets pocket money these days, though there is a vast difference in the amount each child may get. Technically, it is a fantastic opportunity to teach the child about the basics of finance and accounting in a manner they will never learn elsewhere. Teaching the importance of money and discretionary spending is also possible,” C.Kumarababu, senior child psychiatrist says.
But, the child's attitude towards money depends essentially on how he sees it being spent at home, and primarily by the parents. “The child watches how parents spend money, and how they treat it. There must be an agreement about what they child should spend the pocket money on, and discussions, perhaps monthly, on what it was actually spent on,” he adds.
Also pocket money provides a fine opportunity to help the kids cut their teeth on finances and accounting.
One thing that is certain is that a lot more money is being given to children as pocket money, and very few parents are in the habit of giving their wards money when the need arises, unlike in the past.
A 2011 study by ASSOCHAM on “Current Pocket Money Trends in Urban India” spoke to over 3,000 respondents in the 12-20 years age group in five metros, including Chennai (which was at the bottom of the list in terms of pocket money – the maximum was Rs.5,000). Shockingly, it revealed that children were getting pocket money upwards of Rs.12,000 in India, many times more than the few thousands that children were used to getting just six years ago. Apparently, big budget items that kids were going in for was gadgets (55 per cent), 25 per cent spent money on movies and malls, and about 20 per cent on eating out.
“Food is on top of the list – for all children, irrespective of their socio economic strata. If they have money, they buy food. Unfortunately, most of it is junk food and fizzy drinks,” Dr. Kumarababu explains.
Coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, this leads to obesity and a whole string of metabolic disorders that are best prevented at a young age, doctors say. The next big spending is on gadgets and on video games CDs and DVDs, all of which further encourage a sedentary life.
Sr. Dulcy, Principal, Holy Angels' Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, says children are given awareness programmes on how to use the money responsibly. “We target children in Standards VI and VII primarily, and we give them messages about using the money received from parents with discretion. Simultaneously, we also give them lectures advising against consuming junk food. We avoid selling such stuff in the school's tuck shop, but also tell them about the disadvantages so they don't splurge on it outside.”
The constant battle, she says, is that often much of this good advice is undone at home.