Monitoring your child's data usage to lower phone bills

By: Trishna Begam Email
By: Trishna Begam Email

Online resources for monitoring cell phone usage:

Sprint Mobile Controls

AT&T's Smart Limits for Wireless

My Verizon

News 12 This Morning / Wednesday, June 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Better Business Bureau logged more than 38,000 cellular phone service complaints last year alone, making it one of the top industries with consumer complaints.

One reason for the spike is more teens logging more phone time. Your first line of defense to start lowering your bill starts on your cell service provider's website.

Charlene Usry, a mother of two teenage boys, keeps track of her children through text messages and phone calls.

"Basically the only thing he is allowed to do is make telephone calls and texts," she said.

Usry was talking about her 13-year-old, who just received his first cellphone last month.

"It's unlimited texting and shared minutes with us," she said.

When in doubt, Usry heads online to monitor minutes, texts and everything else attached to her boys' phones.

"My main concern is that he is using the phone appropriately. They are not allowed to download anything that will cost us extra money," Usry said.

Gigi Turner with the Better Business Bureau explained, "Each one offers something to the parent that will assist them in monitoring the data usage, text messages and the downloading and purchasing of apps."

Yet, year after year, parents get bill shock.

"The problem sky rockets in the summertime. In school, you've got hours when they are not supposed to be on their phone. In summertime, you have all these hours open," Turner said.

It becomes a more expensive problem when children discover the world of apps. In 2011, the BBB logged more than 38,000 cellular bill complaints.

"Have been anywhere from $300 in excess of their normal bill to $6,000," Turner said.

Phone carriers may not always tell you upfront about their monitoring service, but each carrier offers them on their website.

"Most of them you have to go to your online account," Turner explained. "You can set a data limit on a particular phone. They will send an alert to your phone saying that data limit has been met."

Usry discovered something new while scrolling through her account.

"I'm able to block out times when I don't want them on the phone," she said. "That was something new I did this year because they are always on the phone."

If you have AT&T, ask about Smart Limits for Wireless, an online parental tool. Sprint users have access to Sprint Mobile Controls where you can schedule locks. Verizon customers can manage their controls through Usage Control through your My Verizon account. You can set limits on how much they can download, along with other options to limit phone time.

If your phone bill comes back higher than expected, talk to your provider. There are cases they will work with you to lower the bill. Most of the time they will work with you on a payment plan.

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