Today’s kids spend their pocket money on Roblox and Fortnite. It’s better than the rubbish we used to buy.
Scare stories about what kids like and buy have been around forever, but the silly fear of screens just makes it worse.
It says here — in a survey by RoosterMoney, the kids’ pocket money app — that children in the UK have started spending money more on Roblox and Fortnite than books, magazines or sweets. Lockdown has been a major factor in the shift with highstreet shops inaccessible while online purchases like skins and emotes were easy to get and much simpler to pester parents to get.
The RoosterMoney survey of 24,000 children suggests the number of kids in the UK that are saving pocket money has risen by 14% to 43.5%. In 2019, the percentage was just 38%. Again, there’s a good chance that saving is a consequence of the lockdown and children simply having fewer opportunities to spend pocket money. However, only 5.5% of adults say they regularly save.
So why am I talking about a relatively lightweight survey? Because I’ve spent 15 years writing in the trade, consumer, national and international media and time and time again I’ve read scare stories about screens and technology. This survey will lead to a similar spate of handwringing. According to RoosterMoney, the top 5 items that children spend money on are Roblox, Fortnite, Lego, Books and Sweets. Expect journalists to write about the death of the newspaper through the prism of kids’ not buying magazines. Yawn!
My step-daughter plays Roblox a lot with her friends — it’s locked down to the kids’ area on the platform — and it provides another space for them to socialise and try things out. Some of her favourite Roblox games to play are ones where she roleplays as a grown-up doing a particular job like being a vet or working in an airport.
She is only 10 so she hasn’t yet played Fortnite, but I have and I enjoyed the game though, at 36, I was irredeemably rubbish and only won maybe two or three games in every twenty or thirty tries.
My step-daughter read voraciously and often buys second-hand books with money she receives for birthdays or Christmas. I just got her a subscription to the Phoenix comic and she’s delighted with it. I don’t believe that the screens are better or worse than the books she reads, the clay she models with or the dolls she likes. Play is important for children and Roblox and Fortnite are extensions of the play instinct.
When I was a child, I bought troll dolls with my pocket money, along with 2000AD (to which I’m a subscriber again) and tonnes and tonnes of books. I also played computer games, but the big difference is that they did not have the wonderfully open social aspect of something like Roblocks. When I played games in my room, it was me alone playing Prince of Persia or mowing down Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D.
Today’s children — the privileged ones at least — have far richer and more interesting social lives than I did as a child just 20-odd years ago. That they spend their pocket money differently is a sign of good things to come.