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Can an app teach children financial skills?

Apps can teach children how to manage money, but they're not the only way, says Laura Hendrix.

Sept. 8, 2021

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts

  • Apps can be helpful for children
  • Children can also learn through standard bank debit cards

(373 words)

(Newsrooms: with file art of Hendrix )

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LITTLE ROCK — Can children learn to manage money with an app?

Yes, but apps are not the only way, said Laura Hendrix, associate professor and extension personal finance expert for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Parents may see advertising for debit cards such as Greenlight and Step, which are geared for children and teens. The cards come with phone-friendly and parent-friendly features such as controls that disallow overdrafts and purchase limits.

Laura Hendrix
TEACHING MONEY SKILLS -- Apps can be useful to help children understand money management, but it's not the only route, says Laura Hendrix, personal finance expert for the Cooperative Extension Service. 

“There are other ways to teach these same money lessons but, for example, Greenlight does put it into a fun package and it is probably easier for many parents to just follow the Greenlight package and directions than to try to learn and share on their own,” she said.

Hendrix said “families can do most of these features shown in Step, Greenlight, and other ‘kid cards/apps’ with their current bank by opening an account for their teen or child, obtaining a debit card, and installing the app on the child’s phone.

Hendrix used bank debit cards with her children to help them understand the realities of spending with plastic.

“Children younger than middle school are very concrete thinkers so middle school age seems more appropriate to teach about using plastic to represent money,” she said. “I helped my kids build credit and learn about using credit by co-signing for a credit card with a low spending limit and I made sure the balance was paid every month.

“Accounts can have limited funds, can be set to block overdraft spending, and parents can set a limit on the amount allowed,” she said. “Parents can set them up so the parent receives a text when money is debited or credited on the account. Many banks offer checking and savings accounts designed for kids and there are usually dozens of designs to choose from for the debit card.”

While the apps can have their benefits, “traditional accounts can perform many of the same tasks with potentially fewer challenges, they just may not have the fun, kid- or teen-friendly visual packaging,” Hendrix said.

“However, the built-in money management lessons that come with these apps may be more convenient for parents than trying to incorporate other financial education resources with their traditional bank account,” she said.

Use of trade names does not imply endorsement.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower