Parental controls are all the rage when it comes to prepaid card apps built for kids and teens.
- Get an activity alert every time Junior spends.
- Require approval before Junior makes a purchase.
- Lock the card if Junior needs a financial time-out.
Sounds like a helicopter parent’s dream.
Sure, close monitoring certainly makes sense when kids are young.
But teens? They crave autonomy and privacy.
Don’t shared parental controls undermine both? Aren’t they just another invasive instrument of today’s high tech helicopter parents?
It sounds like ditching the controls when kids become teens makes sense too.
Despite being a fan of giving teens plenty of leash, I have a different view.
Parental controls help your teen develop financial transparency — if used properly.
Why is that important? Teens who become comfortable discussing transactions with parents now are more likely to evolve into adults who are comfortable discussing finances openly with a spouse or partner in the future. That’s a good thing. Financial transparency in a relationship reduces conflict and aligns everyday money habits with shared goals.
That said, kids who strongly resent parental controls will evolve in the opposite direction. They’ll become more secretive about money, not less.
So how do parents use parental controls to build comfort instead of resentment?
- Don’t make it a surprise. Before you roll out the prepaid card app, make sure the kids clearly understand the visibility you’ll have. Give them a tour of all the parental control capabilities. Make transparency part of the deal up front: “You get access to money, I get visibility on your spending — fair enough?” Yep.
- Don’t make a fuss. Mistakes will happen. That’s how they learn. Set the precedent early that the inevitable money mishaps elicit calm, rational discussions instead of raging reprimands.
- Don’t react to everything. Let the little things slide. Bite your tongue when the stakes are low. Nagging is a surefire way to stoke teen resentment.
- Don’t always be first to comment. Let your kid broach the topic when mistakes happen. She knows you already know. When your kid gets comfortable mentioning mistakes first, you’ll know you’re getting it right.
So, ditch the helicoptering, but keep the parental controls at a reasonable altitude. Help your teen practice gaining comfort with financial transparency. A future spouse or partner will thank you someday.
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