Sometimes it seems financially cruel that the school year starts right after the most expensive time of year – Christmas.

I remember my mum having cold sweats over affording new shoes, books and uniforms for five kids. Back then, the stress was eased by the second hand store and good old hand-me-downs – my brothers looked awesome in my blue checked school dress (kidding, sort of – there was this one time, but it made for a great 21st photo).

I have to say though, spare a thought for the parents who now have to include not only uniforms that cost as much as designer threads (my friend paid $45 for a SHIRT!), they now have to cough up for fancy electronics in the long list of school essentials.

The trend is called BYOD, another acronym for Bring Your Own Device. Gone are the days of booking 15 minutes on the one school computer in the library, now in this crazy 21th century world, every child has one and parents have to take charge of the technology and pay for it.

I caught up with Intel Security Cybermum, Sydney-based mum-of-four Alex Merton-McCann who stresses affordability is the least of our problems, rather, teaching our kids to be responsible cyber citizens is.

“While kids are at home, it’s easy to monitor their interactions and behaviours, but with devices now firmly entrenched in the classroom, it’s a bit trickier for a teacher to monitor 30 students at one time,” she warns.

According to Alex.

  • 40 percent of kids think their parents don’t understand technology.
  •  70 percent of kids actually say ‘we know mum and dad don’t know what we do online’.
  •  43 percent of teens and tweens have reported cyber bullying.

It is unfortunately a by-product of our digital world that kids will at some stage be hurt by bullying, so what Alex recommends is to take an active interest in not only their social life, but their social media life as well. Be aware and up to date with all the different platforms they are using and keep the lines of communication open with your kids.

More importantly don’t try to fix an issue by taking technology away from them!

“If your kid comes to you with a problem and you say ‘alright that’s it, you’re off Facebook’ or ‘I’m taking the modem or phone away’ they think you will punish them with a problem online by taking it all away. Which means you are never going to hear about a future problem. Remaining calm and knowing that they aren’t going to get in trouble if there is a problem is very important,” Alex advises.

With cyber life now as real as real life Alex continues with the most important lesson you can teach your child to be safe.

“Kids really need to be taught how to be good digital citizens. Spelling it out basically is a really good way of trying to manage and prevent being bullied or accidentally being a bully. So say to your child, ‘if someone was going to say something mean to you online how would you feel? If someone uploaded a photo of you that you didn’t look that fabulous in, wouldn’t that make you really upset?’ Putting it back on kids and using that as your benchmark can be really powerful.”

In other words, teach your kids the words written on the first two stone tablets. ‘Do unto others what you would have done to you.’

What are your thoughts on protecting children in the cyber world? Let us know in the comments below.