Bad Parenting blamed for Farmville bill

April 12, 2010 at 9:36 am (internet, kids) (, , , , , , , )

Got  a link to this story this morning.  An interesting read.  Some kid managed to rack up £900 worth of credit card bill playing Farmville, oh well, it had to happen sooner or later.  Nothing more to say about that, the mum seems very pragmatic about the whole thing.  At least he didn’t buy a car on ebay.

What I found astounding though, is some of the comments to the post. I scanned to about half-way down and just had to stop reading.  Most were saying ‘hey, you can’t blame anyone else, bad parenting is the cause!’. Well, really, have any of these people ever seen a 12 year old or actually played these games?  Yes its stealing, and it sounds like there have been sanctions, but to say things like ‘I don’t think any 12 year old should have a mobile phone … all that stuff should come about between 16 – 18’ and similar comments?  Some just don’t seem to have any appreciation of how much social life is conducted via a phone or online these days.

When I think of what used to happen when I was growing up – going on trips, courses, holidays, events, whatever and having that low when its all over, and you won’t see anyone to talk about your experiences for a week or so.  Not so today.  The pictures are on Facebook.  They are talking about the trip for weeks on MSN.  They are still exchanging texts.  Even people who couldn’t come on the trip can participate if someone is posting comments and pictures as they go on Facebook.  Its just such a different world.

As for those suggesting that she should have had full awareness of what the kid was doing online … well, companies spend a fortune on auditing and monitoring employees behaviours for security. It is not a trivial problem!  Yes, you can turn on Parental Controls, yes you can log everything they do … but is anyone really suggesting that any busy mum can only let a child use the Internet when someone is watching or will have time (and the knowledge) to retrospectively examine what they have been up to?

The other main suggestion – lock up your credit cards.  Hmm.  Yes, that is practical in a busy household!  Not to mention never typing it in, saying it over the phone or leaving it laying around where anyone could get the number …

Like any new tool or technology, it can be used for good or ill.  You can’t police everything a teenager is going to do. All you can possibly hope for is to give them a sense of what is good or bad, safe or unsafe, responsible and not. They will always make their own mistakes, sometimes with extreme results like giving in to the temptation to start spending on a parent’s credit card (but then its not like Farmville actively discourages any spending from anyone!)  All you can really hope for is that they learn from their mistakes.  And yes, maybe a paper round or doing jobs would be the answer to this specific one (how long would it take to pay back £900 I wonder)!

The biggest problem is in providing an addictive game, but when all is said and done that’s essentially Zynga’s business model (as is Runescape, World of Warcraft, and all the rest), to people with no disposable income.  But thats a common problem.

Everyone has opinions, but some of those shared in the comments to this story are quite scary.  You’ve been reading mine.

Nod to Tervicz for the link.


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