Smart money: countering influence and exploitation via PSHE education

Jul 5, 2023 2:52:28 PM

Children and young people have never faced so much pressure to part with their – or their parents’ – money. From YouTubers plugging ‘hydration drinks’ to Andrew Tate style influencers promising a toxic mixture of get-rich-quick schemes and misogyny, many aspects of children’s online lives now have an exploitative edge. This is particularly troubling, and effective, at a time of increased concern about cost of living and financial insecurity.

Most games for example now have in-game purchases, and in some cases, such as loot boxes, the behaviour it promotes seems little more than a gateway to gambling. This begs the questions: is it children and parents who are being played? And, if so, what can we do about it?

Well, the nature of these issues means we need to move beyond thinking about financial education as being just about pounds and pence – but focussing more broadly on the complexities of economic wellbeing in today’s world, and how it’s entwined with relationships, health, digital literacy and other strands of life, and therefore PSHE education.

This is particularly challenging, but the good news is that we and others are already placing this important area at the forefront of PSHE education thought and action.

Our recent KS2 ‘Money and Wellbeing’ lessons for example explore the nature of influence, how to be a critical consumer and the impact of spending decisions on emotional health. Likewise – we are partnering with the Financial Times’ Financial Literacy & Inclusion Campaign on various activities, including a ‘financial education for the future’ workshop at our recent online conference for PSHE teachers.

We are also about to begin work with Parent Zone, UK Finance, Dr David Zendle, Reason Digital and Cifas an innovative three-year Nominet-funded Child Financial Harms programme. This programme will drive system change regarding approaches to everything from phishing and scams, to in-game purchases to pseudo-currencies. Furthermore, we are delighted to sit on the Lord Mayor of London’s financial literacy and inclusion steering group. More on these activities soon.

All of this builds on work in recent years such as issue #1 of Fully Human (our research and development arm) which stressed that online pornography is as much about money as it is about sex, and what hap­pens when tech­nol­o­gy is aimed at the most inti­mate parts of us in the pur­suit of profit. It’s also worth checking out a recording of our illuminating chat with Dr David Zendle – a leading expert on the impact of video game monetisation – for his research into how games are increasingly exposing children to financial risk and harm.

We’re doing all this because economic wellbeing in the modern age is too important, and too inseparable from the complexities of digital life, to leave to chance. And once again PSHE education finds itself at the front line of these major issues.

Going forward, we will continue to press for economic wellbeing and careers to be statutory alongside RSHE – but in the meantime we hope the above provides some assurance that much work is being done by the sector, and by PSHE teachers in schools, to support children and young people.

Longer term, it is crucial that economic wellbeing education moves from being optional to being central to every school’s PSHE education provision. A recently published study found that children and adolescents in the UK belonging to poorer families have weaker financial capabilities than their more affluent counterparts and are less likely to learn about money in school or discuss it with their parents. Therefore the fact that only independent schools are guaranteed to benefit (given all of PSHE education, including economic wellbeing, is compulsory in independent but not state schools) is perverse and grossly unfair.

We therefore encourage and support all schools to ensure economic wellbeing is a key part of their PSHE education provision, complementing statutory RSHE content but vital in its own right. Consult our Programme of Study for PSHE education and Programme Builders for advice on how to go about it, and as ever please get in touch with any questions.