In Singapore, money talks.
From government policies, family influence and the expensive cost of living, the value of money is taught from a very young age. Singapore ranks consistently as one of the top money savers in the world (Gross National Saving percentage of Gross Domestic Product). There is no doubt that strong financial values have made Singapore one of the world’s most formidable economies.
However, in Singapore, the Internet also talks (usually arguments between children and parents).
Many of these arguments arise from a poor understanding of the value of the Internet.
1. Growing up in a Megabyte Economy
In a previous parenting post, I coined the term “Megabyte Economy,” to refer to a value system for Internet WiFi access between parents and their child. When a child has shown desired behaviour and completed required activities, they are rewarded with Internet access by their parents. Without a value system, children with unlimited Internet access may not develop values for Internet use. Many children expect Internet WiFi as a given right and not as a responsibility. This may contribute to excessive Internet use, at the expense of schoolwork, household chores and other important activities like exercise.
When this extends to personal mobile phone ownership, children without an Internet value system tend to be the ones who cannot manage their data usage and phone plans can become very costly.
When parents take control of Internet access and use an “Internet Allowance” system, children are more motivated to get important things done like eating dinner, completing homework and go to bed in a timely manner. Much like financial values, Internet values must be taught at home. Using an Internet Allowance can help achieve this.
2. Giving your child an Internet Allowance to teach them the value of the Internet
The concept of an allowance or pocket money given at regular intervals is used by parents to teach children the value of money. Similarly, an Internet Allowance can be used to teach children the value of time. For example, a child can complete homework and household chores in exchange for a pre-determined block of Internet time.
I recommend that parents manage Internet use in terms of time (rather than bytes of data). Excessive Internet use is a problem of time. 1 hour on the Internet is 1 hour that can be spent doing another activity. Also, different activities on the Internet consume different amounts of data (100 Mb of data on Whatsapp can stretch for hours, compared to watching a Youtube video in seconds).
3. Tips on giving your child an Internet Allowance
- Children will grasp the idea of a pocket money allowance first. By comparing the Internet Allowance to pocket money, this will help your child understand that nothing in this world comes for free.
- Sit down with your child and negotiate what activities a child can complete in order to earn Internet time.
- Make sure that tasks are completed BEFORE in order to EARN Internet time.
- Use a digital timer to track Internet time and give sufficient warnings to remind your child to save games etc.
- Once agreed, ensure that you and your spouse agree to stay firm and work together to implement your system.
- Use parental controls and passwords to monitor Internet access. Read my previous post on the “2 modem method” and other strategies here.
- How much time? Many guidelines can be found online such as commonsensemedia.org and raisingchildren.net.au.
- One Korean study used a cut-off of 3 hours per day to indicate Internet overuse.
- Screen time versus Internet time? Think of a screen as your wallet and the Internet as the money you put in your wallet. Either of these in the hands of your child can be risky, but it is the money (Internet) that can cost you the most.
- I will post my own thoughts on how to negotiate appropriate Internet time in the near future.
Internet access is not a right, it is a responsibility. Parents are the best people to teach this to a child. Setting up a home Internet Allowance system, can teach your child how to value the Internet.
Finally, even Bill Gates, ensures that his own children complete household chores for pocket money, to help teach them the value of money (he also has a no mobile phone rule before age 13). Why shouldn’t you use an Internet Allowance to teach your child how to value the Internet?
Yang, S. J., Stewart, R., Lee, J. Y., Kim, J. M., Kim, S. W., Shin, I. S., & Yoon, J. S. (2014). Prevalence and correlates of problematic internet experiences and computer-using time: a two-year longitudinal study in Korean school children. Psychiatry investigation, 11(1), 24-31.