Kids summer camp teaches kids about cryptocurrency, virtual reality and Web3

For some children, school holidays mean family vacations, part-time jobs, sports and hobbies, or soaking up the general happiness of not having to do homework. For others, it means learning NFTs.

This summer in Los Angeles, dozens of kids ages 5 to 17 will attend session three of Crypto Kids Camp, where they’ll learn everything from artificial intelligence to virtual reality using games and games. practical activities. (The camp was supposed to take place this week during the public school holidays in April, but due to a construction problem in their space, it was postponed until the summer.) It is part of a cottage industry in full boom of camps, startups, and video content dedicated to educating the next generation on the Web3, sometimes even before they can read.

According to founder Najah Roberts, the camp is a way to bridge the wealth gap between privileged children and underserved communities. “It’s important to catch our kids when they’re young to help them open their minds to possibilities,” she says. “You can tell them there are jobs in tech, but when they actually know they can create those jobs, those platforms, those games, you see their minds open.”

The week-long camp, which costs $500, divides kids into four age groups and has them spend some time on different tech modules that follow the acronym Beastmode (i.e. blockchain, evolution of money, artificial intelligence, security/cyber, technology/virtual reality, mining and machine learning, online games, drones and engineering). Some parents pay for this, but children from disadvantaged backgrounds may be eligible to receive a scholarship. Participating children receive a laptop, drone, robot, VR headset, and phone with a crypto wallet, all of which they can keep. “It’s like Christmas,” Roberts says of the day campers receive their wallets. “They are delighted.” She has big plans: By this summer, Crypto Kids Camp plans to operate in six states, and by fall, there should be 41 locations nationwide.

This isn’t the only kids’ camp dedicated to the subject; similar programs exist at the University of Pennsylvania and other colleges across the country; In Miami; and, of course, online. Children’s media has also capitalized on Web3: Zigazoo, a TikTok-like platform for 3-12 year olds, is releasing NFT collabs with recognizable YouTube sensations Cocomelon, Blippi and the Qai Qai universe of Serena Williams. “We’re trying to teach kids about digital and financial literacy and empower them to create their own art and build the future of the web,” says Zigazoo founder Zak Ringelstein. Also part of this brave new world are crypto-only virtual piggy banks for kids, books and explanations on YouTube with titles such as “C’s for cryptocurrency”, and an NFT-based children’s TV show starring featuring tiny plush cacti.

Crypto-for-kids initiatives often boast of being at the cutting edge of education and preparing future workers for lucrative tech jobs. Part of the appeal of these programs for parents, of course, is to make up for the largely absent personal finance education offered in most public schools in the United States. But at the root of this still relatively new industry is the question of whether cryptocurrency and blockchain are really is the people of the future should prepare their children. There are many valid reasons to believe that Web3 in general relies on flimsy technology and promises that sound good on paper but don’t work in practice, not to mention the risk of being undermined by an NFT project or being scammed by a Meme Coin Creator is much higher than investments in traditional financial products. Perhaps, some have argued, what children need is better education on more stable methods of investing.

“I actually find it a bit scary to hear that there’s this industry socializing very young children on very risky products,” says Joyce Serido, professor of family social sciences at the University of Minnesota, who studies financial behavior within families. She advocates teaching children about money as early as possible, but worries that cryptocurrency is still too volatile and untested for children to understand. “You can explain that for each person who [hits the jackpot] there are 1,000 who lose everything, but that does not correspond to a 15 or 18-year-old,” she says. “They think ‘I’m going to do it’.” His advice: “Give them $5 to invest in crypto or play a stock market simulation game to limit losses. And when they lose, it will be a really good lesson.

However, Serido’s first recommendation for teaching kids about money aligns with Crypto Kids Camp’s: start with something tangible, like physical currency that can help show that money is a finite resource. But, she says, “the second lesson, which is probably the most important, is that what you’re really trying to help your kids learn is self-regulation” — basically, they need to control their impulses. . Another crucial aspect is to make sure they learn from trusted sources; it is more difficult to verify information from YouTube, anonymous chat rooms or their peers.

Teachers say they notice their students spending more time on platforms like Robinhood, where people can buy and trade crypto. Although technically only available to adults 18 or older, some teens use an account that a parent has created for them, and many crypto wallets have no age limit. Nate, a teacher from Virginia who asked not to include his last name due to concerns about future employment, says that over the past two years he has watched his high school students develop a major interest in crypto. , stock trading and sports betting. During study hall, he would stare at their screens – all boys – and see the capricious fluctuations of the Robinhood line chart or the FanDuel homepage. Heard a story from a fellow teacher about a ninth grader from another school who bet on a college football game and won $500,000, then had to pretend his father had done the bet.

Zigazoo’s first NFT collection is with 13-year-old NFT designer, Nyla Hayes.

Nate says he can usually tell when a child may be engaging in potentially risky financial habits: “Once they start fanboying Elon Musk, you’ve probably got a kid who’s into those things,” he says. He also notices that middle schoolers are reacting to the excitement around NFTs without understanding what they are; During a project in a technology class that involved AI-generated art, “there were a number of sixth-grade boys who were excited to see that you could turn art into NFTs and sell it,” he said. “They knew it was cool and trendy and their ears perked up.”

That makes sense, given the media frenzies over kids like Benyamin Ahmed, a 12-year-old Brit who made over $400,000 in two months selling pixelated whale NFTs, or the sibling pair of 14 and 9 year olds who earn $30,000 a month mining bitcoin. This is the world in which Gen Z and Gen Alpha were raised: a world where entrepreneurs are hailed as heroes, where a magazine called Teen Bo$$ exists and where making money is a hobby. “I’m fascinated by how far these young kids are on these emerging technologies,” says Serido. But, she adds, “our mission is to help them navigate the world they will inherit, a world we don’t understand and won’t be there to see.”

It’s too early to tell if Web3 is the answer. But Najah Roberts and other educators bet it will, and they want kids to be prepared. “We started by educating the adults,” she says, “and then we started realizing that our kids really needed it. STEM and STEAM miss a lot of time. Everyone wants to talk about coding, which is great, but so what? We want to ensure that our children receive the same education as adults, but even at a faster pace. Because they are the future.

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