YEAR 7 students will learn about the pitfalls of mobile phone plans as part of a new program designed to stop youth falling into a cash trap.
With a heavy focus on ''invisible money'', the lessons include hands-on comparisons of phone contract conditions, along with discussions about whether bottled water is worth buying.
Younger students are also learning about value for money by doing exercises such as planning and preparing a breakfast for kindergarten children on a set budget.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is rolling out its financial literacy program into selected high schools this term, following its launch in primary schools last year.
About 120,000 students and 6000 teachers are expected to take part in the MoneySmart trial, which is funded by the federal government and ends in the middle of this year.
The principal of Thomas Reddall High School in western Sydney, Malcolm Hurley, said he knew some families who had trouble with their finances.
''It becomes a generational problem. We need to break that cycle,'' he said.
Mr Hurley said the concept of ''invisible money'' was central to the practical lessons.
Children no longer had a strong understanding of money as they did not necessarily receive physical pocket money or see their parents pay bills with cash.
''They go to the supermarket with their kids to do the shopping; they get all these bags of goodies. The parent gives the clerk at the checkout a little plastic card and gets money back as well. They not only get groceries but money in their hands as well,'' Mr Hurley said.
Maths teacher Karen Boswell said children, increasingly owning mobiles at a younger age, would be taught about ''hidden traps'' such as data usage and what was included in different plans. Year 7 students would research and compare mobile phone plans.
''They just think you pay this certain amount a month and they don't understand the data usage … they can't go on forever on Facebook and the internet all the time; they have to understand they pay for these things,'' she said.
Sean McLoughlin, a teacher at Darcy Road Public School, in Wentworthville, said year 3 students last term planned and prepared a breakfast for the kindergarten children, based on a budget of $3 a child.
Teachers helped the students work out how many apples they could afford and used water to work out how much juice they would need.
Children sprayed water on napkins and used marbles to test the strength of brand name products to illustrate value for money versus quality.
A fellow teacher, Claire Rich at Darcy Road Public School, said other grades held a pancake day to collect money for charity and year 6 students sold ice-cream spiders to help fund their farewell at the end of the year.
The ASIC commissioner Peter Kell said the program focused on ''being able to ask the right questions, understanding simple things like what's coming in versus what's going out and planning and savings''.
Mr Kell said it was different from the way consumer and financial literacy was taught in the past because the elements were rolled into existing subjects such as maths, science and English, rather than serving as an ''add-on at the side'' that might be neglected over time.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority is working on broader plans to introduce lessons in economics and business.
The story High school students to get new lesson on how to be money savvy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.