Power Trip

We Need New Child Labor Laws for the Digital Age

The case for paying our kids to play video games

Jordan Shapiro
Published in
9 min readOct 23, 2018

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Credit: Hero Images/Getty

II pay my kids to do chores. They vacuum the rug, scrub the toilets, take out the recycling. It’s amazing how quickly they’ll turn away from video games when there’s money involved.

I know plenty of people would object to my method. They’d tell me that it’s not the right way to raise my kids. After all, popular opinion says that extrinsic rewards promote the “bad” kind of motivation. But the truth is, it’s only mainstream pop psychology and revenue-driven human resource departments that still cling to the dichotomy between intrinsic and extrinsic incentives. The experts know that this is a problematic oversimplification.

In the end, what really matters is how a person interprets the rewards. And that’s why I pay my kids to do their chores. I don’t want my boys to grow up thinking that cooking, cleaning, washing, and scrubbing should be a labor of love, a signifier of one’s dedication to the family, symbolic sweat equity that bolsters their moral and ethical net worth. Instead, I want them to see the financial value, to recognize that they’re participating in what economists call “unpaid care work.” A 2015 report from the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that this kind of work, disproportionately performed by women around the world, “amounts to as much as $10 trillion of output per year, roughly equivalent to 13 percent of global GDP.”

Every time my boys post a photo on Instagram or chat on Discord, they’re providing the content that other users will enjoy.

But chores aren’t the only work my kids do. They spend even more time creating capital in ways they may not recognize: playing video games and posting on social media. In fact, almost all of their digital activities can be described using game theorist Julian Küchlich’s term: playbour. He combines the words “play” and “labour” (he uses the British spelling) to signify how the distinction between leisure and production becomes unclear as digital media turns creative play into a commodity. Please don’t get distracted by the fancy jargon Küchlich borrows from the academic field of…

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Jordan Shapiro
GEN
Writer for

Author of Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad (www.FeministDadBook.com) Twitter: @jordosh