Children and teens can easily go over their cell phone data limit playing games, surfing the Internet and downloading music. There are easy steps parents can take to ensure monthly wireless bills don’t contain unpleasant surprises, by monitoring your child’s cell phone and data use. Better Business Bureau asked major cell phone carriers for tips on overseeing family data usage.
In 2011, BBB received 38,420 complaints nationwide against cellular telephone services and equipment, making it the number one complaint category in the BBB system. Many of those complaints were due to data billing issues. To prevent this, cell phone carriers are willing to work with consumers to monitor, and in some cases, lower their bills.
“By being proactive and aware of the data activity in which your child engages, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on your next cell phone bill,” said Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti. “The cell phone industry has put together different data plans and restrictions that parents may want to consider if their child consistently goes over their data limit.”
BBB has put together a compilation of the major cell phone carriers’ data plans and packages:
For AT&T users, parents should consider “Smart Limits for Wireless,” an online parental controls tool - Smart Limits for Wireless lets parents set limits on how and when their child can use their phone, including setting a dollar limit for downloadable purchases. As the child approaches the limit, he or she will receive an advance warning notification. Once a limit is reached, another notice is sent that service will be stopped until the next billing cycle begins.
For MetroPCS users, parents can use a free purchase blocker that prevents mobile purchases - MetroPCS also has a special account called MetroConnect that allows parents to control purchases by funding the child’s account with a monthly allowance. Once depleted, no more purchases can be made on that phone.
For Sprint users, parents can take advantage of “Sprint Mobile Controls” - Sprint Mobile Controls allow parents to clearly understand their child’s talk, text and app use habits. Parents can lock their child’s phone on-demand or schedule locks during dinner, school or late at night.
For U.S. Cellular users, parents can utilize the “My Account” tool to oversee their child’s data usage - My Account allows parents to receive text message alerts when their data usage is close to the limit, as well as block data to a specific handset.
For Verizon users, parents can set up and manage Usage Controls through their “My Verizon” account – By using My Verizon Usage Controls, customers can keep a tight rein on their accounts’ usage. Families or individuals can control wireless budgets with monthly usage allowances on each controlled line for voice minutes, messaging, data and content purchases such as ringtones, games and downloads. They’ll receive free text message alerts when limits are nearing and are reached. Once the allowance is expended, there is also an option to restrict usage.
T-Mobile did not respond to BBB’s request for information.
For more information pertaining to your individual cell phone carrier, BBB recommends contacting them directly to see what data overage protection plans can be applied to your personal account. For more tips you can trust, visit http://www.ct.bbb.org/