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Video games aren’t so bad after all

—Jason Alderman

Next time you’re tempted to lecture your kids about wasting too much time on video games, first check out which games they’re playing―it turns out they may actually be learning important life lessons.

Much research has been done on whether online games and other interactive educational tools can teach people how to make better decisions regarding personal finances, including an exciting new study called “Improving American’s Financial Literacy: Educational Tools at Work,” by Lisa A. Donnini, Ph.D., KayAnn Miller, and Kitch Walker.

The authors compared the credit performance of thousands of college students who opened Wells Fargo credit card accounts in two categories: Those who completed an online financial tutorial on the wise use of credit prior to being issued their card and those who did not. The tutorial was based on content from Practical Money Skills for Life, a free financial literacy program run by Visa, Inc.

Wells Fargo analyzed each account’s performance more than a year after they were opened and found that cardholders who took the tutorial demonstrated dramatically better credit behavior than those who did not. The results were eye-opening. Those who completed the tutorial:

  • Had revolving monthly balances that were 20 percent lower than those who did not.
  • Were 44 percent less likely to be 60 days delinquent on payments.
  • Experienced FICO credit score increases that were 240 percent better.
  • Were 23 less likely to have late fees.
  • Were 51 percent less likely to file for bankruptcy.

These data provide tangible evidence of what many financial literacy practitioners have long believed: that financial education intervention given at the right teachable moment―in this case, immediately prior to opening a credit account―works.

So, what has this to do with video games? According to Dr. Donnini, “Children have always learned through play, and today, digital media has resulted in increasingly more sophisticated games that can engage youth, while at the same time encouraging learning.”

In fact, many would suggest that the key components of good video games, including immediate feedback, rewards, motivation, and goal setting, may be a better fit for the high technology, global world in which today’s kids live than the more traditional types of learning often found in the classroom.

Some of the better educational video games I’ve seen include several found at Visa’s Practical Money Skills for Life (

  • Financial Soccer, a free, fast-paced, multilingual video game jointly developed with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which incorporates soccer’s structure and rules to teach children and young adults the knowledge and tools they’ll need to establish and maintain sound financial habits over a lifetime.
  • Financial Football, a similar game jointly developed with the National Football League (NFL).
  • Money Metropolis, where kids ages seven to 12 navigate a multidimensional world, making life decisions that will affect whether their virtual bank account shrinks or grows.
  • Peter Pig’s Money Counter, where kids ages four to seven can practice sorting and counting coins with the help of wise Peter Pig.

Other good games include: Bad Credit Hotel (, Planet Orange (, You Are Here (, and Hands on Banking (

Bottom line: Although nothing beats playing in fresh air, there are plenty of electronic games that can teach your kids the skills they’ll need to manage their personal finances.

Folktale Friday promises fun and intrigue

What do Thor, Anansi the Spider, a magic orange tree, the Medusa, Brer Rabbit, a lion’s whiskers, and salt have in common? Give up? All are parts of the vast collection of human expression we call folklore from around the world. Children who are headed for grades four through seven are invited to hear some of these amazing stories on “Folktale Friday,” July 8th, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Esther Bone Memorial Library in Rio Rancho. In addition to stories, this free program will feature games and cultural foods for participants to enjoy. 

“Folktale Friday” is being offered as part of the library’s summer reading program, “One World, Many Stories.” For more information, visit the Esther Bone Memorial Library at 950 Pinetree Road in Rio Rancho, or call Youth Services at (505) 891-5012, extension 4. This program has been funded by the Friends of the Library of Rio Rancho and the City of Rio Rancho.

I’m lost! How to prevent and handle a lost child situation

—Keith Kepler, AlliedBarton Vice President and General Manager

A lost child is a parent’s worst nightmare. And as families plan to spend more time outdoors, on vacation, and in busy public places this summer, it is important to be prepared. A survey of parents by the Center to Prevent Lost Children showed that 90 percent of families will experience losing a child in a public place at least once, and 20 percent said it has happened more than once. The United States Department of Justice reports that more than 300,000 children become temporarily lost for at least one hour, but the good news is that a majority of those children are quickly found and not harmed.

It is important to try to prevent a child from getting lost, but even more important that the child knows what to do if they do get lost. Preparing yourself and a child can make this frightening situation become a bit easier for everyone involved.

  • Before you go anywhere, talk to your family about what to do if someone gets lost. Discuss a designated place to go if you get lost, or advise children to stay right where they are when they feel they are lost. Tell children to find a security officer, police officer, or an employee if you are in a public place, or remind them they can ask another mom with kids for help.
  • Prepare your children, so that they can identify themselves. For younger children, have their identification information in their pocket. If they are old enough to speak and can relay the information, practice reciting your phone number with them, and let them know they can always call 911.
  • For younger children or when clothes don’t have pockets, be creative. Make a bracelet out of numbered beads, or write your phone number inside a shirt collar or on a shirt tag with a fabric marker.
  • Dress children in bright-colored clothing, so they can easily be spotted. Lemon yellow and lime green are the suggested colors because they easily attract the eye. You might also have a piece of clothing that is only worn when the child goes out in public, so you can easily remember what they are wearing.
  • Take a photo of your child with your phone before you leave home or when you arrive at your destination. This will help police find a lost child because they will be aware of exactly what the child is wearing and how they look that day.
  • Positive reinforcement is the best way to prevent a child from wandering away from you when you are in a public place. Speak with your child about stranger danger, and remind them of the importance of staying with you.

Sometimes children do get lost, and it is easy for parents and guardians to forget what to do in this scary situation. Many public places have standard procedures of what to do when a child is missing, so make sure authorities and the venue’s management is notified that the child is lost.

Authorities will be able to help because they are familiar with the area’s surroundings and could have the capability to lockdown buildings or issue an alert.

Amusement parks and vacation spots are not the only places where children can get separated from their parents. This can occur at home as well. If the child is lost at home, be sure to look in the most common hiding and play spots first.

  • If you are at home, search your house first before going outside. Check closets, laundry baskets and piles of clothes, in and under beds, in large appliances, in vehicles, and other areas where the child may hide or play.
  • If you still can’t find the child in the home, call 911 to notify them, and let them know if you feel the child is in any danger. Police departments would rather be aware of the situation and called back when the child is found, rather than wasting valuable minutes to find the child. Time is crucial once a child has been separated from you.
  • Stay calm. Screaming the child’s name won’t help you locate the child any faster if they are not close by. Plus yelling the child’s name could lure the wrong type of person to your child who may be screaming back for you.
  • Make sure the phone number your child knows, preferably a cell phone, is on and is receiving a signal. Also, be sure to have a close family member or neighbor near your home phone so that you can stay in the area where the child was last seen.
Just like any other emergency plan, it is important to review and practice your family’s strategy if a child gets lost. Children can be better prepared to know what to do in the situation and will feel more confident that they will be reunited with their family if they understand the family’s “lost” procedures.







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