There’s lots of loose talk about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Ethereum. Some see them as the future of money, while others think they’re a bit unsafe. Offering your child a balanced view will help them gain a good footing in this very new side of financial literacy.
Cryptocurrencies can be used to buy things, but they’re purely digital– there’s no coins or cash. The most popular cryptocurrency is called Bitcoin, but there are a number of others. Some believe that this is the future of money so it’s a chance to talk to your kids about it.
Normal money, like British £ and US $, are controlled by governments; cryptocurrencies aren't. Instead, they’re kept in check on a ledger (a kind of big, electronic exercise book), held on lots of different people’s computers around the world. This ledger is known as a blockchain.
Bitcoin is the most famous cryptocurrency. It was invented in 2008 by a figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto. That’s not his or her real name; the person or persons who created Bitcoin have never clearly identified themselves.
There are thousands of different cryptocurrencies in the world compared to 180 traditional currencies!
Bitcoin can be bought, but also made via a computer, running programs that help maintain Bitcoin’s blockchain. Unfortunately, these days, to make lots of Bitcoin, you need a very powerful computer. In 2018, some Russian nuclear scientists were arrested after they tried to use one of the country’s most powerful supercomputers to mine cryptocurrencies!
In 2013, James Howells, a British IT worker from Newport accidentally threw away 7,500 bitcoins when he got rid of an old laptop hard drive. That haul is worth over £200 million today. He now wants to dig up his local rubbish tip, in the hope of finding the old drive.
Stuck for a way to discuss cryptocurrency with your kids? Try these talking points
Because it isn’t run by one country or person, cryptocurrency can be used around the world. There aren’t many added costs in using it, and you use it anywhere you can get the internet. Also some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, have gone up in value, which has made early users rich.
Some say they’re not good for the planet. It takes a lot of power to power the computers that run computers that maintain cryptocurrencies, which heats the globe. If Bitcoin were a country, it would be using about as much energy as Argentina! Also, the value of cryptocurrencies goes up and down. In the time it takes to pay for some sweets the value of your crypto wallet could have changed.
Err, yes. Sort of. Back in 2013 two programmers created Dogecoin, a jokey cryptocurrency named after the ‘doge’ dog internet meme. However, that funny cryptocurrency has gone on to be worth serious money.
Nobody knows. Some sci-fi books describe a world where cryptocurrencies are really big, but some economists aren’t so keen on the idea. Read Paul Krugman’s words, below, to get a sceptic's view.
Playing is a great way to aid the understanding of the cryptocurrency for kids. Why not try some of these learning games?
See how much the value of a cryptocurrency changes in the space of a day. Bitcoin is the most famous one, and its price changes rapidly. Lots of things affect the price, from elections to wars to rival cryptocurrencies.
Challenge them to create their own cryptocurrency: They’ll need a name and a logo. Here’s a super cool site that lets you create a cryptocurrency logo for free!
Make up your own story for Satoshi Nakamoto, the shadowy figure who created Bitcoin. There are a few clues as to his identity out there...
Blockchain technology isn’t just used to keep track of currencies. It’s also used to create one-off, unique works of digital art. These are known as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. And what’s the most popular subject for NFT creators? Kittens. One of these crypto kitties just sold for over £415,000! Can you make a good one?
“Cryptocurrencies have no backstop, no tether to reality. Their value depends entirely on self-fulfilling expectations — which means that total collapse is a real possibility. If speculators were to have a collective moment of doubt, suddenly fearing that Bitcoins were worthless, well, Bitcoins would become worthless. Will that happen?”
“Gold is analog; Bitcoin is digital. It's far superior to gold as a store of value, not just because it's gone up 200% a year for 10 years, but because you can't flee your country with millions of dollars' worth of gold, as it's bulky and hard to divide, whereas you can send Bitcoin anywhere in a fraction of a second at very low cost, and it's almost infinitely divisible."Bill MillerAmerican investor
“My kids are seven and eight, so money is abstract to them anyway, and cryptocurrency is next-level abstraction. But they spend their allowances on things like Roblox and Minecraft. That isn’t quite cryptocurrency; it is a sort of currency that can only be used in a certain digital context. Guiding them through the process of converting real money into digital currency, then seeing how they fall in and out of love with these games has been really instructive. My eight year old spent his entire birthday endowment on Roblox. Then, two weeks later, he and his friends stop playing the game, and he can’t convert it back. That was a really good lesson for him to learn: when you convert all your assets into a digital currency, it’s a lot less stable, and maybe even a gamble. I think that’s a good analogue for cryptocurrency.”Joshua David SteinAuthor, journalist and father of two
Children can’t open bank accounts, but they can get used to the idea of having their money with the RoosterMoney app. And they can get started for free. Here’s how.Find out more about RoosterMoney
You kids can also get a pre-paid debit card, a bit like a bank card, via RoosterMoney. It's called The Rooster Card and it's great. You can find out all about it here.Find out more about the Rooster Card
Kids can’t get their wages paid into a bank account just yet, but they can track the money they get paid for chores via the RoosterMoney app. That should teach them about money and work.Find out more about RoosterMoney and chores