School your children in spending, UAE experts say

Children as young as four receive pocket money and buy gifts for themselves, prompting a warning from experts over monitoring those purchases.

ABU DHABI // A regional study published this week found that children as young as four receive pocket money and buy gifts for themselves, although doctors are warning parents to monitor those purchases.

Doctors said children may buy something inappropriate for their age. Game shops often stock video games with violent or sexual content.

Turner, a division of Time Warner, conducted the study Kids Compass by surveying 2,300 children between the ages of four and 14 and 3,000 mothers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“The majority of children who get regular pocket money receive up to Dh500 per month in the UAE and up to Dh250 in Saudi Arabia. The figure increases according to the child’s age,” said Tarek Mounir, general manager Mena, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus at Turner Broadcasting System. “Forty-seven per cent of children in UAE and Saudi Arabia who get pocket money spend it straight away, 36 per cent save some and spend some, and 17 per cent save it all to buy something bigger.”

Dr Haneen Jarrar, a child psychologist at Camali Clinic in Dubai, said it was important for a child to be able to handle money. “But children go into a games shop and may buy games that are not meant for their age. It’s important for the parent to have strict and clear guidelines on what the child can and can’t buy with the money given to them.”

She advised parents to ensure that children did not buy things online because they needed to know where the money was going. They also needed to ensure their children checked with them before buying a game or a toy.

Shilpy Ashta, a child psychologist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, said parents needed to create a contract with their children when giving pocket money.

“As a mother you need to ask yourself why does your child need the money and why are you giving it to them? They are not likely to buy their own clothes. If the money is meant to buy lunch daily then let them know that,” said Ms Ashta.

“Give them an amount enough for weekly expenses. If they’re buying games this should only be allowed sometimes.”

Sarah Al Senaani said she gave her two children a small amount of money when they went to the supermarket. “I make them hold the money because I want to teach them how to think and how to be responsible.”

The Emirati asks her children what they would like when she is buying them a gift.

“If he is old enough to talk, why would I be deciding what he wants?” she said.

A M, an Indian mother of two sons, who are six and four, believed her children were too young for pocket money.

“It’s better to give them a reward or surprise them with their favourite toys. I prefer taking my kids to the shop and letting them decide what they want. I try to explain to them what games are suitable for their ages and what they will learn from this.”