Square’s Cash App for Teens Can Prepare Them for the Future

A teaching moment disguised as an app

Key Takeaways

  • Square Cash can now be used by kids aged 13+
  • Parents can monitor and control spending.
  • Spending and saving are way more complex than even a few years ago.
Screenshot of the CashApp for teens on a smartphone.

Square

Square's Cash app is now available to kids aged 13 and up. If you're a parent, that thought might terrify you, but it could be a very good thing. 

The Cash app is what credits cards should be. It combines physical and virtual credit cards and also lets users send and receive money from others. It's a very convenient way to manage your money, and now kids as young as 13 can get in on the action.

Years ago, kids learned about money by running possibly illegal lemonade stands and saving coins in a piggy bank. Now they learn to use the same electronic financial tools as adults, only with plenty of parental control.

"Today, we mostly interact with our finances and money digitally through applications and on the internet; therefore, it's important that children learn how to use these applications and online payment systems. If a child has proper training, they will be well-prepared when they begin making a wage for themselves," Kristin Thompson, a marketer for financial service, Swan Bitcoin, told Lifewire via email.

Teaching Moment

Kids need to learn about money, and money is way more complicated than it was even just a few years ago. In addition to cash, credit cards, and PayPal, we have Venmo, Apple Pay, Square Cash, and every bank seems to have its own personal payment app or feature. 

At the same time, kids now spend a good chunk of their money online, either through in-app purchases or by redeeming vouchers bought in stores. So while it may initially seem quite scary to set teens up with a powerful spending tool like Square Cash, the parental controls make it easier than ever for adults to control—and monitor—their children's spending habits. 

"The length of the leash parents give their children when it comes to spending should be a personal decision made by each family," says Thompson. "Having said that, it is important that children learn the value of investing and saving at an early age."

Parental educator Sari Beth Goodman agrees.

"It is vital that children learn to work with cards and online/payments. When you have cash in your wallet and spend it, there is less cash in your wallet. You can see it. When the cash is gone, you cannot buy anything else and cannot overspend," Goodman told Lifewire via email.

"If a child has proper training, they will be well-prepared when they begin making a wage for themselves."

"When you spend money using a gift card or credit card, there is no physical change in the card. It looks exactly the same."

Parental Oversight

At the same time, kids need to learn to be independent with their money. For example, if you give a kid cash to buy their school lunch, and they spend it on something else instead, you may never know. But if all their transactions are listed in the parental transaction tracking section of Square Cash, then you can know everything. And that may be bad.

"Parents should absolutely have a tight hold on their children's finances, but also allow for small mistakes and learning to occur, so they are prepared to manage their finances in adulthood. So many kids go to college with little to no knowledge on how to maintain their finances, and this is 100% on the parents," Carter Seuthe, VP of content for the financial site, Credit Summit, told Lifewire via email. 

The Future of Cash

Cash may or may not be going away, but it is now just one part of the financial world. So far, electronic spending has mimicked cash, but it could do much more. 

Someone using the Cash App on their smartphone.

Square

Alternate currencies already exist—and we don't mean Bitcoin here. Hyperlocal currencies, created by communities, often have rules about how they can be spent. For example, the Greek TEM is only accepted in the city of Volos, where it is made. This keeps money in the community. 

Other 'ethical' currencies have restrictions on what you can buy with them, which carry on down the line of subsequent owners. In the case of kids, their allowance could be marked for spending on books or outdoor activities, but not on fast food or in-game purchases. 

This reality isn't here yet, but it might not be far off given how fast the financial world is shifting right now. And if it comes, it could be that it's the adults, not the kids, that are confused.

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