The thinking is this: The kids of today can't appreciate the value of money because they rarely ever see it. The thingness of money is vanishing into an electronic ether that invisibly connects a glowing screen to all other glowing screens. The fear for some is that the growing intangibility of the "universal equivalent" has come with a moral cost. Because it's no longer hard cash in a wallet or coins in a purse, money is infrequently available to the keen senses of our young ones. It is known by experience that as a human gets older, the receptors on their largest organ—the skin—get colder, which is why it becomes harder and harder for an adult to learn new tricks. If the value of money (when not to count it, when to count it, and so on) is not pressed into the opening years of a human's life, then it will not leave a deep and lasting impression on the much longer closing years. The money on credit cards is no more real to a child's eyes than the sparkles that trail a moving wand. Those fries at a mall's courtyard, or cups of hot chocolate at a Starbucks appear out of nowhere. The cash transaction is hidden. Things pop in and out of a child's world like particles in a void.
A company in Atlanta, Greenlight Financial Technology Inc., has developed a very special debit card that parents can use to teach some old-school lessons about saving and spending to the children of our electronic age. Seattle-based e-commerce giant Amazon has invested in this company because it wants to connect the capabilities of the card (automating allowances, selecting businesses where children can spend, alerts for charges) to Alexa, its popular digital voice assistant.
Amazon Alexa Fund Director Paul Bernard to Puget Sound Business Journal:
We were drawn to Greenlight because of its customer-first approach to give parents the ability to manage their kids’ spending and to give kids the tools to be financially literate. We’re excited about the possibility of bringing the natural and frictionless experience of voice to payments and look forward to working with Greenlight to make that a reality with Alexa.
Amazon makes it clear that its main concern is reducing transactional friction and getting kids into Prime time as early as possible. It's hard to believe that it has the same goals as those of Greenlight, which is promoting the middle-class virtues of its card. This talk about fixing notions of "saving" and building "wealth for the long-term" in a young mind is a bit outdated for a firm that very recently opened a store that has made workers as invisible as money. A child in this cashier-less store might as well be walking through a bewitched forest.
Lastly, a good amount of the money on these cards will be borrowed and added to a family's climbing household debts. Consumer debt is essentially the renting of what used to be wage increases. Also, a massive amount of the money that's inflating Amazon's value on the stock market is leveraged. Also, banks do create money ex nihilo, out of pure nothing. And a banker creating a line of credit on a computer keyboard might as well just type the word: abracadabra. Money, for that matter, has been floating like faeries since 1971, when Nixon, under the advice of Paul Volcker (one of the most important figures of the last 30 years of the previous century), closed the gold window for good. (This is known as the Nixon shock.)
If you want your child to have a proper understanding of money in a financialized economy like ours, then I recommend they attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.