Net Game Teaches Teens Money Management

In this week's "Cybershake," we look at a non-profit group's challenge to teens to "do something" -- such as "save money." Plus, we note how kids and other fans of online tunes can stem the cash flow with a new fee-free music download service from RealNetworks.

A Site Online: Save Your Dimes

Video games, CDs, candy, magazines, snacks. There are plenty of things that kids can spend their money on. But to teach teens the value of a dollar and the power of saving rather than spending, a youth organization called "Do Something" is trying something unique.

"Do Something is all about getting kids off the couch and getting them engaged in how to lead their lives in a positive way," said actor Andrew Shue who founded the group. "If kids can learn what it means to make money, save money and invest money at an early age, it can be a big deal."

To promote the idea of fiscal responsibility, Shue's non-profit group has teamed up with the CitiGroup Foundation to develop its second annual Financial Education Challenge. In addition to classroom material, the Web site features an online interactive game that kids can play.

When kids register to play, they choose one of four financial goals such as saving for a house or a vacation. They can also choose their profession, where they'll live, own or rent a home, and what percentage of their "salary" they'll set aside to meet their game's goal.

At each turn of the online game, the player gets a message that contains a "bank statement" showing how much money they've earned from their jobs and how much they've saved. Other financial events -- if they had to pay for car repairs or take their spouse out to dinner -- are also noted.

In addition, players have to make some important decisions -- should they lend money to relatives, donate to charities or invest in friend's new business? The outcomes of such events -- and the impacts they bring to their goals in the game -- are then highlighted in the next turn's message.

As they play, the game offers links to basic financial information, such as the difference between stocks and bonds or what it means to co-sign someone else's loan. Kids "win" the challenge if they meet their individual financial goal within 10 turns.

Shue believes that the game offers kids a fun way to learn about complex monetary matters. And once armed with information, teens can "do something" to become better members of society.

"If a young person, 15 or 16 years old, is talking about these things with their family, it affects all of them," said Shue.

Aside from valuable life lessons, kids who take the Financial Education Challenge may get a physical reward as well. For a limited time, Do Something will send a free piggy bank to players so they can put what they learn online to good use.

-- Jim Hickey, ABC News

Rhapsody's New Free Tune

The music industry and technology companies have had some success in getting digital music fans to pay for online music rather than just taking them for free from Net pirates. But some music listeners still say "free" still beats "fee." So, if you can't beat them, join them. Almost.

On Tuesday, RealNetworks Inc. announced a new feature on its Rhapsody software that will allow users to play up to 25 songs per month for free. Users can choose any tune from Rhapsody's online database of more than 1 million songs and play it 25 times or 25 individual songs that can be played only once.

To prevent unscrupulous users from making copies of the songs, each digital file on Rhapsody is encoded with Janus -- a so-called "digital rights management" technology provided by Microsoft.

Rob Glaser, RealNetwork's founder and chief executive officer, said the move to offer free listening is designed to entice the digital music fans who still balk at paying for online music.

"Essentially, we've taken away the barrier of, putting your charge card in to use it," said Glaser. "Now all you have to do is download the software and you're off to the races."

Industry watchers note that RealNetwork's latest announcement could also help lure more music fans to legal online music services -- including Rhapsody's own $10 per month unlimited music service.

However, detractors note that while Rhapsody's free plan might be easy on the wallet, it's not a clear slam-dunk. For example, only digital music players that support Microsoft's Janus technology will be able to access Rhapsody's tunes. That means the growing number of Apple iPod owners will probably stick to Apple's iTunes service.

-- Donna Renae, ABC News

Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.