Editor's Note: This article is part of a popular Q & A format series in which we interview experts and industry professionals that have made significant contributions to the credit card industry.
Now and then you stumble into a heretofore little known website that has the potential to significantly impact high school youth and young adults in a major way. I knew this was the case when I first saw the web site Consumer Jungle. This is a web site chuck full of advice and Internet-exchange styled materials for anyone… but especially our youth.
Consumer Jungle is designed to be an interactive aid to help high school students become literate, savvy consumers. It provides relevant consumer education in such areas as credit cards, transportation, personal finance, telecommunication, health, and e-commerce fraud. It offers interactive games, quizzes, and activities for the home or classroom with input from teachers, parents, and students.
I communicated with Robert Parlette who is a Consumer Law Attorney and major contributor of content to Consumer Jungle. I asked him for a bit of background on Consumer Jungle and learned that the site is owned by The Young Adult Consumer Education Trust (YACET) which is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting consumer literacy for young adults.
In communicating with Bob Parlette he added, “The official 501(c)(3) name for Consumer Jungle is ‘Young Adult Consumer Education Trust Group’. We adopted the name Consumer Jungle because it truly is a jungle out in the real world...somebody is always trying to take your money through some devious means.”
I continued questioning Bob on the site.
Mike: Consumer Jungle offers a main caption ‘Look for the hook.’ Can you elaborate?
Bob: I have long believed in the old saying there is a sucker born every minute. Everyday new scams are invented. Consumers need to be wary and always approach offers with a skeptical viewpoint. Look for the hook encapsulates that perspective.
Mike: What age group do you hope to reach and what are you offering to them?
Bob: The age group we focus on are older teens and young twenty year olds who are just getting started in life living on their own. We are offering tips on the practical problems they will be facing as they start out in life. These are things that young adults should learn from their parents or in High School, but don't. We address six subject matters:
1. Credit wisdom and using credit cards for "wants" as opposed to "needs" as well as the unseen hazards involving the use of debit cards.
2. Buying a used car and getting insurance.
3. Exposure to the hidden costs and pitfalls of cell phone plans.
4. Advice on how to avoid Internet fraud.
5. Tips on tenant rights and leasing an apartment.
6. Lessons on scams connected with health issues and diet pills, etc.”
Mike: What sources do you utilize when producing content?
Bob: Scott Kane and I are both consumer law attorneys and we contributed much of the material based on our own experiences. We have solicited input from businesses in the cell phone industry. We hired outside consultants in the health and internet areas.
Mike: I tried a few of your life simulations and found them very practical. What feedback have you gotten from young participants?
Bob: We have had this beta tested to a limited degree. The kids liked the concept but wanted instant feedback on the effects of their answers on their financial situation. We would like to partner with another organization to take this to the next level. Our resources are limited, but our ideas are many.
I would like to thank Bob for the time and energy he has devoted to Consumer Jungle and to commend him on his concern for the welfare of the young folks of our nation.
I think it is very fitting to conclude this piece with a quote from the Consumer Jungle philosophy: “The Consumer Jungle curriculum is based on a constructivist philosophy. We believe that learning is most effective when students have an opportunity to actively explore their world, gather information about it, and construct their own meaning from the experience….activities are often more relevant, engaging, and motivating to students because they are learner-focused and authentic, encourage critical thinking, and develop useful and long-lasting knowledge and skills." Between these words is an exceptionally powerful concept.
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