Bye Bye Lunch Money, Hello Debit Card

lunch-moneyIf you’ve got a kindergartner-to-be in your house, the worry over how to handle the lunch money appropriations may be replaced by a new set of dollar distresses.

According to a friend of mine whose son is a year older than my daughter, sending your kid with a pocketful of dollars is out. Today’s kids carry debit cards.

Whaaaat?

The plan is to keep kids from carting cash to school she says – the parents load up the card with money, and the kids swipe their card in the lunch line, with the cost of lunch being deducted immediately.

OK, sounds like a great way to rid the schoolyard of the bully who hold a kid upside down to get the lunch money out of their pockets (although, to be fair, I’ve only ever seen that in movies – even the big mean bullies at my school merely pushed you into a corner and demanded you hand it over).

But what happened to teaching kids about dollars and cents? There’s no counting out quarters when it’s all mechanized, sending not just a math lesson but an opportunity for some old-fashioned life skills out the window.

Not to mention my friend’s number one worry: you load up the card ahead of time for at least a week (some parents have reported you pay ahead by a month or even a semester), and there’s no mechanism to keep the kids from blowing the cash in one fell swoop. Meting out a certain amount of money every morning has its benefits – you control how much they have to spend that day, especially for the younger kids who can’t yet be counted on for self control when it comes to the “extras” line.

And while one friend reported her school promotes this as a way to make “lost lunch money” a non-issue, physical dollars might be missing, but a $20 debit card left lying on the bus is just asking for abuse. Likewise,there’s no one keeping the schoolyard bully from demanding your kid spend his accrued cash on cookies for the class.

My child won’t hit kindergarten till later this year, so I haven’t experienced the benefits. Parents, are you happy with the new decade’s approach to the cafeteria?

Image: xJasonRogersx via flickr

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