`Having money makes you feel independent'

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The Independent Online
Young journalists from Children's Express show that exercising their spending power goes far beyond the local sweet shop.

"Money makes you feel independent even if you are not," explained Aminah Carter, 13. "When you're out shopping and you've got the money in your hands and you're by yourself, you feel independent."

The importance of managing your own money was clearly recognised, and despite advertisers' attempts to tap the youth market, all the children were wary of their influence. "I don't buy things just for the hell of it. My money goes on day-to-day living, nothing extravagant," Moynul Mustafa, 15, said. And Momtaz Begum Hossain, 16, said: "I have got a bank account - but I only joined so I could get a free gift."

The junior world is divided between those who subsist on parental pocket money and those who help earn their keep. "If you go into the real world and get yourself a job, that's when you're going to prove you're independent ... If you're not hard working, it's not actually your own money," Denis Shukur, 15, said. He acknowledged the attendant responsibilities. "If parents see a child isn't reliable, he or she shouldn't get their own money. They might go out and buy things like drugs."

As they grow up, many believe that getting a part-time job is a valuable step towards greater responsibility. "I work to pay my mobile phone bill and my share of the phone bill at home. It's fair because I can't expect my mum to do everything for me now," teenager Julia Press said. Daniel Blackwood, 15, agreed: "It's right that once you reach a certain age you should earn it yourself."

Where parents are the main source of income, attitudes were mixed. For Mehrak Golestan, 13, financial handouts come complete with trust. "If I ask for extra money, she wants to know what it's for. But she wouldn't say, `Oh, I don't think that's good, I'm not going to give you money for it' because she respects me." Yet for Momtaz Begum Hossain, shopping sprees quickly turn into show-and-tell: "Every time my mum gives me money, she wants to know what I've bought with it. Then she wants to see it, which is even worse."

Some welcomed greater involvement from their parents - usually mothers. "I don't get pocket money every day," explained Mehrak. "I tell my mum to keep my money for me because I know if I have it, I'll just use it for things I'll regret later such as silly magazines." Nicola Smart, 13, prefers to use banking facilities to control cash flow.

Children appear adept at making their income stretch. While Momtaz hoards concessionary vouchers for the cinema and scours markets for bargains, Mehrak shops for records at the beginning of the week "when singles are 99p", and Stuart strikes a deal with his mother, putting "sometimes pounds 10 towards a really expensive shirt."

8 "Children's Express" is a programme of learning through journalism for children aged 8-18. This discussion was led by editor Momtaz Begum Hossain, 16, with the help of editors Moynul Mustafa, 15, Natasha Massiah, 14, and Sophie Lam, 17, and reporter Pfungwa Chipatiso, 10.