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Financing for Fourteen Year Olds

posted by Katie Porter

Whyville is a virtual world for children ages 8-15 years old. Nearly 2 million children and teenagers are members. The children participate in activities and games, for which they earn "clams," an on-line monetary unit, redeemable for virtual goods and services. If you run short of clams or lack the patience to save, there is a virtual borrowing system. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 9th, an exclusive licensing deal with Toyota means the only car now available in Whyville is a Scion XB. Children who want to finance the car meet with Eric, a virtual Toyota Financial Services adviser. I haven't tried it, but apparently if you fail to shell out enough "clams" to meet your payments, the site virtually repossesses the Scion and you have to take the bus to get around. The site claims to teach socially responsible behavior. Should this include borrowing? I'm wondering when the site will announce the ClamDay Lender, the Scion title loan, and the Whyville Refund Anticipation Loan.

Comments

I understand the gut reaction against the consumerism of this pre-Sims game, but I think I would rather my daughter learn that she has to pay her virtual debts or pay virtual consequences than face these issues for the first time in college when the credit card applications come rolling in! I had a friend who taught remedial high school math, and part of the curriculum was balancing a checkbook. I asked her if she taught any topics on credit cards, loans, compound interest, etc. She said no. Perhaps the virtual world of MMPORGS can fill in where K-12 education is lacking!

Well, a lot of kids that age plays games that teach them how to kill people and take their loot. A game that imparts a lesson or two about how to manage finances seems like a good thing to me.

Thanks Christine and Chuchundra,

I am CEO of Numedeon, the company that owns Whyville. We can watch day to day what kids are learning about finance, compound interest rates, principle, credit ratings, etc with this project. I have a 2 year old, who has already gotten an offer of the citibank credit card - fortunately, he is just starting to read, and is still perfectly happy to rely on my credit card. You aren't going to stop marketing to kids -- but there can be such a thing as socially responsible marketing -- which really is at the intersection of mareketing and education -- we call it "edutizing". Sure, some kid might remember some day that Toyota Financial Services was willing to try to teach her (most of our 'citizens' are girls) something about finance when she was 12 -- it would be great if she also remembered, later in life, the companies that were trying to addict her to unhealthy food.

:-)

Jim Bower
CEO Numedeon Inc.
Founders of Whyville

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