My Teenage Son, His Cell Phone, and the Bill for $1,055.20

We held out for as long as we could. We really did.

Despite an intense and relentless lobbying effort from my son, the Honeybee and I stayed strong and denied his repeated requests for a cell phone.

And, boy, were there a lot of requests.

I can’t remember the exact day he first requested his own cell phone, but I am quite certain the first letters he learned in school weren’t A-B-C. They were A-T-(T).

When Matthew turned 12 last year, we decided it was finally time to grant his wish. The only condition was that he had to pay us $25 per month to maintain his account. Knowing that he could easily earn $40 per month by simply mowing the lawn and doing chores around the house, Matthew readily agreed – and so we got him his phone.

Three months and two missed payments later, Matthew’s coveted phone was “repossessed” by the First National Bank of Dad for failure to fulfill his end of our contract. I know.

Fast forward about a year later.

My son finally turned 13 a couple months ago, so we decided to give him another chance – even though he still has trouble managing his money. And since it was time for the Honeybee and me to replace our old cell phones anyway, we decided to “upgrade” our existing plan with T Mobile and get some new phones for us in the process.

Matthew was ecstatic; he loved getting his phone back.

As for the Honeybee and me, we were pleased too. In addition to getting new phones, it was actually nice being able to phone our son again when he was out playing in the nearby hills and it was time for him to come home for dinner.

Anyway, last week the Honeybee went out to the mailbox to get the mail. She told me she knew something wasn’t right when she pulled our phone bill out of the mailbox and saw that T Mobile didn’t bother to send it in a smallish envelope like they usually do. This time it was curiously packaged in one of those oversized 9-inch by 12-inch envelopes instead.

She grew even more concerned after she felt the monster package and knew it contained more than just a couple of sheets of paper in it.

Her hope was that our carrier was including more information on the new plan we signed up for a month earlier.

Unfortunately, what she found was a phone bill that would have been 141 pages long if it had been stuffed into their usual smaller-sized envelopes, but T Mobile decided to save a small forest by copying and condensing all of those pages onto 42 unfolded sheets of regular 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Front and back.

And buried somewhere within all those pages were the ugly details:

Monthly recurring charges: $136.99
Taxes & Other charges: $17.61
Usage charges: $900.60
Text messages sent: 2,276 (2,052 of them by Matthew, God love him.)
Text messages received: 2,131

For those of you who aren’t counting at home, let’s see that’s… fourteen, pi-r-squared, carry the one, ah yes: $1,055.

And twenty cents.

I know what you’re thinking: YGTBKM. Unfortunately, I’m not. Here’s the top half of the front page of the 141-page bill…

PhoneBill

But surely there had to be a good explanation, right?

Well, before I go any further, let me say that T Mobile’s customer service department was absolutely phenomenal. They did a great job talking the Honeybee down from a narrow ledge outside our second floor bedroom, convincing her that jumping from there would result in little more than a broken ankle anyway – and then quickly assuring her that all of the text charges would be removed from our bill.

It turns out that when we signed up for our new plan T Mobile had failed to note that our account had unlimited texting. As a result, they had mistakenly billed us for all 4,407 messages.

That’s right. T Mobile was FUBAR.

PTL!

Still, I’m Left With A Few Questions…

1) The billing period was 30 days. That means my son averaged 68.4 text messages per day. I think I’ve sent six text messages in my entire life. All but one of them consisted of the same three little letters which, coincidentally, I am going to type again here because I find them appropriate: WTF?

2) On the first day Matthew got his phone he sent roughly 180 messages – even though I’m sure he couldn’t have had the phone that day for more than six hours or so. OMG. On average, that’s a text message every other minute – for six straight hours. I mean, come on. Really?

3) What information was my son conveying in those 2,052 texts aside from the frequent P911 warnings and occasional predictable admonitions to KPC — keep parents clueless? On second thought, never mind. I don’t think I really want to know.

4) Am I the only dummy in the room that had no idea kids with cell phones love to text so much? (Don’t rub it in. That’s a rhetorical question, folks.)

The Moral of the Story

If and when you finally do decide to give your child his own phone, short of blocking all text messages, you would probably be wise to make sure that you get a plan with unlimited texting. We pay $20 per month for the option and as far as I’m concerned it’s worth every penny.

CWYL.

131 comments to My Teenage Son, His Cell Phone, and the Bill for $1,055.20

  • Len, You never fail to disappoint. I HAD TO READ EVERY WORD of this post. All I can say is…. been there. Good luck with the next 10+ years. Best, Barb
    ps this is going in my link post IMMEDIATELY.

  • OMG is right. I would have passed out if I got that bill. Good thing you got it all reversed without having to pay it.

  • This is so typical I’m not surprised at all. But don’t forget thy incoming messages count too! So while sending a text every 4 minutes for 6 hours isn’t much better, that actually sounds a little bit not-as-horrific. I’m glad t-mobile was willing to work with you, I think you can get any charge reversed just by asking!

    • Getting the charges reversed is NEVER a slam dunk. Ours were reversed because we started a new plan and the error was solely on T mobile. A buddy of mine once got stuck with a $1000+ bill (teenager and texting) but had to eat it because he had been in his plan for a long time – so the carrier wouldn’t give him relief.

  • My son is 14 months old and already the cell phone is his favorite thing. He sees somebody using one and he cries for it. Ought to be fun when he’s 14 years old! *lol*

  • Maybe that is why we are all screwed up, we grew up without the ability to text.

    But, I do wonder how big the human thumbs will be in another thousand years of texting.

    By then, however, there will probably be chips in our heads, that will allow “texting by thought!”

  • Lynn

    Thanks for the laugh – and the heads up! I have 3 1/2 year old twins and am dreading the day they ask for a cell phone. I think I may just block texting too because I just don’t get it!!!

    • @Dr. Dean: If you’re right I just hope who ever is in charge of tracking our thoughts gives us an “unlimited thinking” plan option!
      @Lynn: Make sure any toy phones you give them have a cord attached to them.

  • Phone bill: $1055.20.
    No-scalpel vasectomy: ~$800.
    Net savings, even before the food and the clothes and the bail and the cold medicine and the bus fare and the sports equipment and the ballet lessons (if you’re that kind of parent): $255.20.

  • WOW that’s a lot of text messages! My dad learned this lesson the hard way when he gave me my first phone as a teenager! You better believe we got the unlimited plan (and I got a stern talking to) after the first bill came. But I don’t think even back then that I managed to send anywhere close to 2,052 messages in one billing cycle! Very impressive!

    • “Impressive” is definitely one word for it, Kimberly. But I’ve a got a few others in my head I like better. ;-)

    • Kevin

      I have 5 phones on my account and have unlimited texting for all the phones. I keep track off who the 2 teenage girls are texting and I think they actually compete for the texting champ each month. Between the 2 of them they have topped out at about 10,000 texts in a month. Thank God for unlimited texting.

  • Fran Marie

    Why does a 12/13 year old need to have a cell phone??

    My kids all got their first cell phones when THEY could put THEIR names and bank accounts on them.

    And WHY would you not want to know why your kid wants to keep you clueless?

    • My sentiments exactly, Fran. I think no child that is 0.9230769 years old should EVER be given their own cell phone. ;-)

      For the record, I know EXACTLY why my kid wants to keep me clueless – after all, I was a teenage boy once too. :-)

  • the younger generation doesn’t talk on the phone as much as we did when the greatest invention was a cordless phone :) i’m sure your son wasn’t texting 1 msg every other minute for 6 hours. it was probably fewer communications back and forth in a flurry of conversations. imagine if your phone conversations were translated into text msgs, each comment being 1 text. “yeah…” “sure” “LOL” and so on…

    unfortunately, the younger generation doesn’t seem as comfortable picking up the phone and just talking. it’s all or nothing when parents make the move to get the phone for them. pre-paid phones might be a good option for parents too.

  • “They did a great job talking the Honeybee down from a narrow ledge outside our second floor bedroom” Len I am still laughing. Thanks for the post, and the advice! Teenagers a such a trip, no?

  • Hello len!

    Oh my gosh–he is going to get arthritis!!!! Thanks for sharing this story.

  • i love that you made your son pay for the phone or at least some of it himself. this is the best way to teach kids the value of their possessions and a hard earned dollar.

    glad to hear everything worked out and you also learned your lesson on unlimited text for teenagers. this is very good advice.

  • This is the kind of thing that’s funny when it happens to someone else. :) Fortunately, my 2 cats haven’t developed opposable thumbs so I don’t have to worry about this. You’ve sure got your hands full with your son, and I’m glad T-Mobile talked Honeybee down!

  • Jenna

    I work with middle school girls 12-13, they are completely addicted to their cell phones. Just wait until your son gets a little older…

  • Hilarious – I’m sure my kids will pull the same thing in a few years. I seriously don’t get the texting thing. I don’t pay for the plan because it’s 5 bucks and I don’t text so I have friends that text stupid crap like “Happy Fathers Day” and I have to pay a quarter for every dumb message like that. I know, I sound like an old fart, but either pick up the phone and talk to someone or don’t send insipid messages that cost me money, ya know?

  • All the kids know that The Bank of Dad and Mom has an unlimited credit line. That’s why we have a generation who’s forever in debt and never questions the unlimited credit line of their current Daddy & Mommy-The U.S. Gov’t.

    The best thing a parent can do for their kids is to teach them how to control their money and become a contributing member of society. Imagine what our country and economy would be like if everyone (from the President to parents) focused on just those 2 outcomes.

  • We also have a near teen with a cell phone. Fortunately, we already had unlimited text messaging as the hubby and I are big users. Huge.

    Still, I was stunned when she outdid us – by a lot – in her first week. 1700 messages sent & received during spring break. Mostly consisting of LOL & :) back and forth.

    Thank goodness we’re not paying for THAT!

  • Kids don’t talk, we got Jane 2.0 the lowest minutes but unlimited text/data. Last month’s bill? 12 voice minutes used, and with unlimited text they don’t report usage.
    Sounds like you had your paperwork handy, good lesson for your readers.

  • @Jenna: I’m so excited I can hardly stand it, Girlfriend.
    @Darwin: Until last month, we completely blocked texting because I was tired of paying for stupid text messages that people would send to me – and I had to pay for (I think it was 15 cents a message at the time). Talk about a complete WOMBAT.
    @Betty: I completely agree with you on all counts. Re: “The best thing a parent can do for their kids is to teach them how to control their money and become a contributing member of society.” Some kids, like my son, are a lot tougher to teach in this regard that others. I’ve been working diligently with him in this arena for a couple years now and let’s just say we have a long, LONG, way to go. As I’ve written in this space before, the only way it is going to sink in is if he makes lots of mistakes. We’ll see if he can keep his phone this time around.
    @Heather: You better believe it.
    @Joe: That sounds like a really smart way to do it, Joe. I’ll have to monitor Matthew’s voice time and see if that isn’t a better option for us.

  • Financial bondage

    I’m old school. Kids don’t need cell phones. I did not have one. If I had kids I guess i would be a mean parent… lol

  • Oh wow!

    Look on the bright side Len, at least he’s probably pretty darn popular, or has at least one or two friends and isn’t a social misfit!

    That amount of texting is impressive!

  • Oh, and the other question is, what are you making him do to pay for it??

  • Wow. Lucky you don’t actually have to pay all that. A bill like that would have certainly given my parents minor heart attacks.

    I got through college with a prepaid Sidekick – $1.00/day for unlimited text, IMs, and web and $0.15/min. That may have been a great option for your son as well. It allows for him to manage his money and still text like a monster (he’ll definitely get his money’s worth).

    Too bad T-Mobile discontinued the phone.

  • Pam Maltzman

    May I suggest a prepaid cell phone, such as TracFone–with a basic cell phone, not fancy? It runs me about $20 every three months or so (adds 60 minutes, and unused minutes roll over). I only use it when I’m out running errands or otherwise on the road. I don’t do texting.

    Oh, and a prepaid cell phone will help your son learn to manage his money in a small way… especially if he is made to pay for it.

    Their simplest phones are under $15.00. Accessories will run you a bit more. I imagine that TracFone might have some fancier cell phones that will text and take pictures too.

    • MikeO

      I had a Trac-phone. I hated texts… Then I realized I was paying a ridiculous 50 cents or something per text. When I started to use it more, it added up REALLY quick. The prepaid cards started to cost more than I pay for unlimed text and data now on Att. (plus the trac phone changed their service and I was getting no signal here) @ all the anti cell phone folks, there’s a few things that have changed to push us parents to this point. The schools will no longer let the kids call us on their (school) phones. There are no pay phones. and I like to be updated so I am not going on a wild goose chase when the plan needs to change, or leaving them stranded. (ie – the ball game was canceled, can you come get us?) or when they went to the State band competition, and got back at 2:00 in the morning, the school office is closed, and they are under strict orders to NOT share their phones with the other students, (due to a couple incidents or fears of pics being transferred/sent or out-law BFF texts from estranged texters of other crazed parents) Yea that happened when one parent forbad their daughter to text her boy friend and so she borrowed someone elses phone and called them. So the parent found out and all manner of ridiculousness ensued. Oh the woes of modern parenting. Hey – Why do we need any phone, or the internet, or cable TV, or cars, our GR GR Grama didn’t have ‘em…

      • MikeO

        oops, Sorry Pam, didn’t mean to blast your post, I got carried away and didn’t realize I was actually on a particular person’s reply, senior moment / blog foul

  • Dee

    Any parent with teens knows that a Trac-phone won’t cut it. We did pre-paid for our son….always running out of minutes, 25c texts, it just wasn’t worth it. Teen boys don’t talk much, so Vi***n Mobile $25 unlimited texting+300 talk mins is perfect for my 2 cherubs!!

  • Jan

    My daughter came home one break with a bill of over $500. from texting (before you could get unlimited texting). AGGGGG!

  • Sam

    “For the record, I know EXACTLY why my kid wants to keep me clueless – after all, I was a teenage boy once too.”
    I’d be leery of that.
    My ex had a 14yr old that we discovered was doing some bad things after I installed a key logger on the kid’s PC. We were able to nip it in the bud since we knew about it. Just because your kid is a good kid doesn’t mean his friend’s can’t talk him into the some hair brained stuff. And kids have more opportunities to get in deep trouble now a days – there are more laws, etc. Can you tell I miss the good old days?
    After being a nanny & in a couple LTR where there were kids in tow, I’m raising my 7th kid and I don’t see the point to a cell before they have a car and before they can afford to buy a prepaid phone on their own. They never respect things as much as they do when they have to pay for it. My youngest son bought a really nice watch with a timer from mowing yards & that timer goes off 10min before dinner. He’s never late. And the watch is the best cared for thing he owns – he treats it like fine china.
    Glad to hear T mobile reversed your charges & that it was a billing error. I’ve known several of my students that did the same thing & their parents had to pay the bill.

  • Dan

    I think the messaging count is probably typical for a male teen. We went through this with our oldest. Even more shocking for girls they can easily hit 5000 plus messages sent per month.

    Actually it is fascinating to watch these kids text. They can do it all with one hand and very fast and accurate. Wish there was something useful they could do that would make them money with this ‘skill’.

  • This totally made me laugh. A couple of years ago my daughter was a (miserable) freshman in college and her text/cell phone bill, when printed out, was a full ream of paper. I kid you not. Luckily my husband printed it at work. It was for ONE MONTH. THANK GOODNESS for unlimited text. See also: reasons for poor grades.

  • This post is hilarious. My kids are only 4 & 2, so who knows what technology will be like when they are 13.

    When I was 13, I talked on the kitchen phone with its 20 foot cord for hours with friends. Haven’t a clue what we talked about. I can still here my parents yell to get off the phone.

  • Julie

    I have a 1 year old and a newborn, but my 19 year old brother is on my plan. Thank goodness for Sprint’s unlimited any mobile, data, and texting. He uses at least 1 GB of data a month as well as at least 2000 texts a month. O_O. Calls? Not so much.

  • @Samurai: Matthew IS a very charismatic kid, that is for sure.
    @Simon: Thanks for the advice. Too bad the Sidekick is gone. I feel like Rip VanWinkle, just waking up to all of these alternatives I never really needed to consider in the past.
    @Pam: Thanks for the tip. I’ll be looking in to it. I am currently using this phone as a tool to help him manage his money. We’ll see if the results are better than when he got his phone the first time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! :-)
    @Dee: Thanks for your advice! I’ll have to monitor Matthew’s talk-habits over the next few months.
    @Jan: Isn’t parenthood great!? LOL :-)
    @Sam: Thanks for your insight on this. I do appreciate hearing others’ experiences on this. :-) Try not to take my “EXACTLY” quote that too literally. What I was trying to say was I realize most all teenage boys are going to drift into exploring those ubiquitous gray areas and push boundaries when they can. I know I did. My philosophy is he’s going to commiserate with his buddies and do it too, whether he has a cell phone or not – so no sense denying him a phone purely on those grounds.
    @Dan: Now you’re really scaring me – my 10-year-old daughter is waiting in the wings for her turn to get a cell phone in a couple years. As for the dexterity that kids can text, it is truly amazing. Matthew is an absolute texting phenom.
    @HeadlessMom: Wow – I guess our bill wasn’t too extraordinary then! That is amazing. And yeah, it’s gotta be hard to study when one is constantly glued to the cell phone.
    @Kristia: Yep. I remember when I was growing up, my sister had her own cord phone with a very long cord – and her own phone number to boot! I think the decision to give a kid a cell phone is very similar to our parents’ decision on whether to give us our own (cord) phone when we were kids.
    @Julie: Amazing. And I agree – thank God for unlimited texting options! :-)

  • Leslie

    My daughter got her first cell phone 5 years ago because she was walking home from school for the first time ever and I work full time. All was well for the first year or so, and the 400/month texts were never used up. Then all of a sudden, I open my mail and the bill is $350 over the usual. I called tmobile and while they didn’t reverse those charges, she was already $250 worth into the next billing cycle and they COULD retro the unlimited to the beginning of that cycle. It took an awful lot of yard work and additional chores for her to work off that bill! (Because honestly, where is a twelve year old going to come up with that kind of money?)She learned a lesson though about how money = WORK. And that might just end up being worth that bill after all!

    • Terrific story, Leslie! :-) My son’s work ethic is terrific – he is not lazy by any stretch of the imagination. The problem is his inability to prioritize and control his spending. I think he’s still under the terribly misguided impression that when he becomes an adult “everything will all just work out” with respect to living on his own. I’ve still got five years to turn him around, so I ain’t going to panic yet.

  • I bought each of my kids a phone when they started high school. This was also a time when I was getting seperated. Ex stole daughters phone and racked up a bill for just over a thousand on my name. I paid the bill, bought each of the kids pay per minute, never had one problem with either kid. Funny the ex always was the last to grow up! The kids were fine with pay per minute. I put $10 per month on their phone and it was more than enough for them to call me with needed info or a friend, to co-ordinate. If they wanted a real conversation they could switch to a land line easy as that. They were always delighted with this option as it also allowed them to drive and be safe. No texting on pay per minutes. When they got their own phones in college they both opted for texting. They pay those bills, so no worries from Mom.

  • Nice story. Letting kids use new technologies is always a challenge. I’ve been letting my 7 year old play occasional online games on a laptop. Yesterday, when the screen slowed down, he poked it out of frustration and broke it. He was distraught afterward and even gave himself a time out. But that’s $800 or so that won’t be easy to recover.

    • Yikes, Larry. That is unfortunate. You have to give your son some credit though – he did give himself a time out. As our old computers became obsolete I passed them down to my kids. One day my daughter ended up shorting out her keyboard when she spilled water on it. I didn’t care too much because she had an old computer anyway. She had to pay for a new keyboard herself. Now she never has a drink near her new keyboard. Funny how that works. :-)

  • Kathy

    Thanks for making me laugh! I’ve got 3 kids all under the age of 7 and my turn is coming too.

  • I got one of the first cell phone back in 1998, before texting was possible because I was taking the bus to school and back and my mom wanted to be able to contact me. Once texting became available our plan was free incoming texts and .10 for outgoing. She had told me “If you text, you are going to have to pay for it”. So when I did, I put the dimes aside. She came in to my room, pissed one day about the phone bill… there were texts on it. My response, ” Yes, here is the money, I set it aside”. Apparently I miss understood her, I was allowed to text and the payment if I did was the punishment, sigh. I have my own plan now, with unlimited texting and yes we use it for talking, even my mom has started. She is worse then some of my friends.

  • Yikes! It’s funny, but I don’t have kids and know they text all the time. However, I only know this because I work with kids and have had the experience of watching my 17 year old niece incessantly text non-stop for hours. It’s quite a feat of finger movement. You probably don’t want to know what your son is texting to his friends. It makes me wonder if they will develop joint arthritis and have to create robotic joints in the future! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • @Len – On the bright side, Matthew is pretty hip. I remember when we Europeans first went to America with our texting ways, I would get dumb looks from US colleagues who still sported pagers on their belts. For some reason, texting has never caught on so much with you guys whereas for anyone under 30 it’s joined with Facebook to eliminate email altogether, and for males (though not women!) most phone calls too.

    Without wanting to get all dynastic about it, Matthew is the future.

  • @Kathy: You said it. Batten down the hatches! :-)
    @Ginger: LOL. So technically, you paid twice!
    @Little House: It is truly amazing to watch how fast they can text. I actually find it somewhat entertaining.
    @Monevator: That he is, Investor. Time marches on.

  • kadee

    Seems like you haven’t learned how to be a parent YET!
    Children don’t run the household & don’t get items like this until THEY can pay the bill on it! You caved…you lost.
    Have fun for the rest of his teens! Are you going to buy him a car too so he can text while driving & kill himself???

  • Did you stop reading at the title, Kaydee? Go back and reread the article – then get back to me.

  • If I had a nickel for every time my daughter said the words “Family Plan”, I could be retired. Imagine her disappointment when Santa Clause brought her a shiny new prepaid Net10 phone. And, being the uncool Dad that I am, I made her crush the cans and recycle when she needed more minutes.

    Now, the kids have grown up and gotten their own cell phones. And, I can never reach them, because their phones are usually disconnected. Those big bills are really annoying, when your folks don’t pay them.

    I love my kids, but I wasn’t born yesterday. When I was a kid, each house only had one phone and you had to dial it. And, if you called long distance, your picture wound up on a milk carton. My parents weren’t that concerned about our self-esteem.

    • MikeO

      Wow, sounds like your way really taught them how to manage their bills. I know someone whose whole purpose in life is to see their kids fail, rather than teach them young, while the mistakes are recoverable, and the cost is relatively small, eventhough still painfull enough to leave an impression. They also would sound victorious when their, then grown, children would screw up.

  • I’m certainly no Texting Olympiad like your son, but I recently started noticing my texts increasing as well. I guess it’s just the way the telecom world is/has been trending. I had a 450 text plan which was sufficient about four months ago, but now I’m going over that limit by a 100+. I finally changed my plan to have unlimited texts, which kicks in next month. By doing this, I’ll end up saving about $30 a month. Great post and a good lesson to be taught.

  • It is very wise to include unlimited texting in your plan if you are including kids or teens in it. Kids don’t pass notes in school anymore, they text. They also use texting to share answers on tests sometimes. When I was a teen the big thing was that teenagers spent hours on the phone. Now those hours are spent texting or using instant messaging.

  • @Bret: It was simpler back when we were kids. Of course, back then there were pay phones on every corner and in a lot of businesses. If kids are away from home with their friends and need to make a phone call, they better know somebody with a cell phone – or they may be out of luck.
    @Credit: Thank you.
    @Money: I hear ya. In the old days, at least when they talked on the phone they were usually tethered to a 6 foot cord. ;-)

  • N J Gill

    My son ran up a $600+ bill on 1-900 calls 25 years ago

  • End User

    Please stop using the term “Honeybee” in your articles. We don’t share the same affection you do for your wife, so it just detracts from the article and makes me cringe.

  • sewingirl

    Oh Len, Len, Len! You are still in the minor leagues with a boy! I have three teenage daughters, and yes (thank God) unlimited texting on our plan. Middle daughters personal best is 6200+ texts in a month. I never did the math as to the daily average in that, it was just too depressing to contemplate! And yes, they are all partners on my plan, and they pay their bills on time, or Mom shuts off the phone.

  • 6200+ !! If that is sent texts only, that is absolutely incredible, Sewingirl! I’ll do the math for ya: That is roughly 206 text messages per day (assuming those 6200 were just the sent texts). You’re right, Matthew is a minor leaguer by comparison – so far. LOL

    And Matthew still has to come up with his $25 per month too or his phone will be repossessed – again.

  • Thanks for such a great story!

    My son is starting to push the cell phone issue lately (he just turned 10) so this was great info for me. His argument is that over half the kids at school have one. As a class assignment, he even wrote a paper about the benefits of owning a cell phone (trying to convince us the merits of such a purchase)… He paper was spot on. If I get time I’ll start to research the plans (what a pain)…

    I’ll make sure I get unlimited texting too!!! Thanks for the words of wisedom around texting!

    And No, I have no idea why texting is so popular! I tried it and hate it…

    Someday, we’ll have a generation of kids with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!!!

    • You’re welcome! My 10-year old daughter, Nina, is still bucking for her own phone but I am going to wait until she gets into middle school. Two more years for her! I’ve talked to teachers at her elementary school, and all have told me that over half the kids there already have them, so Nina is in the minority there – and she will remain in the minority. Unlike my son, her school is a mere 10 minute walk from home and I see no other reason for her to have a cell phone just yet.

  • Not too bad for a 13 year old, my 17 year old racked up 10160 texts (sent/received) last billing cycle. I am amazed her fingers still work.

  • OMG!!!! That has to be a world record, I don’t know if you should be proud of that acheivement or what but your kid needs to get some kind of job organising or planning something major…. Maybe organising flight paths or something!

    I’m so glad they took the charges off for all those texts!

  • I don’t think I’ve sent more than 50 text message my entire life – much less 2276 of them. Wow. I guess I’m too old to be one of those of the “texter” generation.

  • Prepaid is the way to go for kids. I don’t know why you would give your child the control of how many texts they can use. The way the phone companies are set up begs for children to use to their hearts content because they have no idea how many texts they have sent until the bill comes.

    Prepaid on the other hand (Tracfone in particular) tells you how many minutes you have on the phone, at all times and the texts come right out of your minute allotment. If they want to send 8billion texts, they are stopped when the minutes are gone and they have to recharge the phone. It’s the perfect solution and First National Bank of Dad doesn’t have to collect a bill monthly or monitor usage. If the kid wants to get more texts or minutes, he can pick up a prepaid phone card at just about any shop around and recharge the phone himself pending he saved up enough to do so.

    I actually can’t wait till my kids are old enough for a phone, because I’m excited to use Tracfone to teach them money management.

    • @Greg: That is absolutely incredible. It’s got to be hard to stay aware of what’s going on all around you when one has constantly got their head looking down to read/send texts. Don’t you think?
      @Forest: Well, judging from the number Greg’s daughter posted last month, it ain’t even close. Scary huh?
      @Money: I know what you mean. Welcome to the old farts club. ;-)
      @Jesse: Thanks for the info on the Tracfone. It really does sound like a great idea for those who want an alternative to unlimited texting, among other things.

  • WOW…I’m 27 and HATE sending texts, but I have a 300 text message plan because everybody seems to like texting me…

    I think the deal you have with your son is great. I was holding my breath while I was reading your post because I didn’t know they had screwed up the bill. If I was your wife, they would have had to talk me down from a ledge too.

    I guess this is just the newest thing. When I was a teenager, my mom would get pissed because I’d talk on the cordless phone for so long every night that it would either overheat or run out of batteries…then it would still be dead in the morning and mom would have to use the regular phone. I’m surprised she didn’t kill me by the time I moved out…although if I do ever have kids, she has told me that she “hopes they are just like me”, so I’m screwed, hahaha. :-)

    • I remember my sister used to love to talk on the phone when we were teenagers. She ties up the phone so often my folks finally got her a phone (and number) of her very own.

  • Hi there.

    First time reading you blog… I’m here through Canadian Finance Blog.

    THAT is a crazy bill!! This is what I dread about moving back to North America (I live in Japan now): your cell phone companies are ripping you off left right and centre!!!! I pay the equivalent of about $3.50 for unlimited text messages, and all incoming texts are always free, no matter if you have unlimited or not.

    I don’t know if it has been mentioned or not (I didn’t read all the comments) but your son might have a virus on his phone that is sending messages without his knowledge.

    Are all of those messages confirmed as real?

    • Welcome, Myke! Konnichiwa! You sound like you have a great unlimited text plan. I pay $20/mo. for the family. And I am positive Matthew sent all of those texts himself. Hard to believe, I know – but based on comments from some of the other folks here, he is a rank amateur in terms of pumping out text messages. LOL

      • Konnichiwa, Len!!

        That is amazing.
        I would guess the majority of those texts would only involve a few words… like the conversation:
        -meet after school?
        -sure
        -time?
        -3:30
        -where?
        -my place
        -cool
        -later

        I mean something like that would be 4 in, 4 out in the span of about 30 seconds or so.

        $20 per month isn’t AS bad as I thought. I thought you meant per person.

        I still can’t get my hear around it, though…

        Glad to have found your site.

  • Um wow. We’re still on a 10 cents per text plan. I am really bad at it with my old school phone and lack of enabling software. My younger sister texts like the wind. I’m such an old fogie. Heck, I confiscate cellphones when college students are texting in class.

    When my SIL was in college she racked up a few thousand dollars calling her boyfriend in Canada. The cellphone company forgave a lot of that though. Man were her parents angry with her… and they NEVER get angry. They switched to a plan with unlimited north american calling after that, which they would have done if she’d let them know in the first place.

    • I feel like an old fogie too, Nicole. At least I’m not at the point where I’m opening up my front door and yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my front lawn. Yet. ;-)

  • Wonderfully entertaining post. With so many companies prone to all kinds of errors these days, policing all our bills and charges is getting to be a full-time proposition. It’s gotten so any company that does things right straight down the line is a pleasant surprise.

  • Patty

    Teenagers are running up cell phone bills like money grows on trees. My daughter runs up our cell phone bill on everything so I had do something about it. I switched her to a Tracfone where for $20 she gets 60 mins airtime. She picked out a cute camera phone for a great low price. She can now have the freedom to talk as much as she wants but she realizes she has limited mins to work with.

    • @Savvy: That error was hard to miss, but there are instances when the errors are so small you’ll never catch them if you get careless.
      @Patty: You are probably the two-hundredth person to tell me I should get a Tracfone. I’ve really got to look into that because it sounds like a terrific option. :-)

    • hannah

      $20 for 60 minutes is really bad value for your money. Check out PagePlus Cellular. You can pay $12 for 250 minutes and 250 texts. Much better deal.

  • beth

    I just recently purchased Straighttalk @ $45 a month I get unlimited text, talk and web. It’s available through Walmart via Tracfone. For me it’s perfect, no contracts!! They also have a $30/mth plan. Another option to look into too for those battling excessive cell bills.

  • Great article! I have to say I’m happy we found an unlimited text plan prior to purchasing a phone for our daughter – I hate to think of the damage she could have done! We went with kajeet and pay $14.99 a month for 60 anytime minutes and unlimited texts. I was so impressed with the company I joined the sales team and can offer anyone a 15% off discount by going to my landing page at http://www.kajeet.com/michele There is a great back to school deal going on right now for any QWERTY keyboard phone – enter promo30 at checkout and receive $30 bucks off!

  • When I visited the Philippines which is the world’s texting capital all people there are hooked up to their phones. They are not calling but simply tapping on their keypads. I think most of them have memorised the keypads that they are talking while texting. When you ride the jeep you can see people texting, and some of them are texting while walking! Can you believe that?! Maybe this is the new craze of teenagers nowadays. I think this is the best way to talk their secret to their peers. To think that they no longer have to whisper just to avoid their parents from overhearing their conversations; unlimited texting is simply heaven sent. Until you get one of those incredibly high phone bills and need to get fast cash to pay for it.

    • I almost got into a head-on collision (at under 25 mph) yesterday in my own neighborhood. Some teenager texting while driving down a residential street. She had drifted over into the opposing lane of traffic and didn’t even realize it. Truly unbelievable.

  • Jerry A

    My wife has a T-Mobile prepaid plan: 1,000 minutes (or 10 cent/text) for $100, good for 1 year. Her usage is not huge by today’s standards, so she only needs to buy new minutes about once every 10-11 months. Much cheaper than a monthly plan.

    Our 14 year old son asked for a cellphone “for emergencies” but he asked for an Android phone. Our reply was “Fat chance”. We’ve heard these horror stories, and we know our kid. We got him a bare bones telephone (Motofone F3, no camera, nothing but voice and text) and a prepaid plan. The deal is that we buy him the minimum number of prepaid minutes every 90 days (enough for real emergencies), and he can pay for any more time himself. No $1,055 monthly bill surprises, not even $100 monthly bills, and the young man learns to control / budget himself.

  • naospen

    Hi Len,

    This is my first time reading your blog, so I don’t know how old/new this post is. I’m wondering if you can tell me how one goes about having a cell phone account tied to the name of a 14-year old. T-mobile says that they don’t put accounts in kids names.

  • fiona

    i must be beyond mean, because when i looked after my niece, purely because she had got out of control and was into drugs and other things, i lhad her come live with me in the country. yeah i got her a cell phone, pre-paid, when she ran out, she had to wait til the end of the month to put minutes on it or go earn her own money. she wasnt allowed to drive until she finished high school, and as for curfew…. well, lets just say that when and your boyrfriend have to leave fifty dollars apiece on the table, which you forfeit if you come home late, then incentive and motivation was no longer a problem.

    • Len Penzo

      I love the $50 “late deposit,” Fiona! Bravo! Now I’ll be using that one too when my son and daughter are old enough to go out for the evening.

  • E L Frederick

    He’s an amateur; my son averages about 20k texts per month. Unlimited Texting FTW!

  • John Argent

    Well after reading this and all the follow up posts I think I got you beat, several years ago I added a second line to my account, and gave the phone to my elderly disabled mother. Now you have to understand my plan was an old one with like 300 text messages any over and I was charged seven cents after that. For the first two months very little change in the bill then I get the monster bill. WTF!!!! called up the cell company very upset wanting answers, to my chagrin I was informed that the second phone had made over 5300 text messages the lady asked if it was a teenage son or daughter, I had to admit it was my mother, I had made the mistake of teaching her to text. After the nice woman was able to stop laughing and get up off the floor she got her supervisor on the line who also died laughing they then back dated an unlimited text package which took most of it off my bill. A lesson well learned, after the two years on her phone was up I ditched both and hers and my phone and replaced them with prepaids. with only 4 famliy members having my number I average about $25 every two months, and my mother pays for hers and averages $35 a month, definitly beats $160 a month mega package I had.

  • Laura

    Wow. A lot of you sound so mean! Just because you didn’t have a cell phone that means your kid shouldn’t? I was born in the 60s and can’t tell you how much a smart phone improved my life. I am so much more organized. I’m never late now. I don’t forget appointments. I call to get info when I think about it. I don’t have to wait and remember to call when I get home, etc.

    my parents never let us go down the street by ourselves no matter how old we were (not even at17). We couldn’t afford call waiting so we were allowed to be on the phone for literally one minute before being told to getoffthe phone. My mom was a stay at home mom who had her own things to do so she couldn’t be bothered to take us to friends houses and she didn’t have time to watch someone else’s kid. No one near our age lived anywhere near us. Lonely doesn’t even begin to describe it. I would never do that to my kids. My son is three weeks old. When he’s older he will be getting our hand me down phones in grade school.

    • Len Penzo

      I was born in the 60s too. Although we didn’t have cell phones, there were pay phones just about everywhere — in parks, in stores, bowling alleys and just about every other large business; they were virtually on every corner. So keeping in touch was really never a problem.

      Today, kids need a cell phone if they are going to be out because those payphones are almost extinct.

  • Cheryl

    This is my first time reading your blog, but what an interesting set of responses. I’m sort of with Laura, the poster above me. My daughter has had a cell since she was 12. We live in the 5th largest city in the US, I am a single mom and commute an hour to work. I wasn’t about to leave her without a way to communicate with me. At first, we had a flexpay plan through T-Mobile so that I didn’t have to worry about overages with her, but it had unlimited texting. After about 2 years, getting her pretty well trained not to make calls unless absolutely necessary, we switched to a regular plan, with 700 minutes and unlimited texting. She can text all she wants, but calls are for specific purposes. She has never gone over minutes. But she texts over 10k a month. One month, she logged over 16k texts. This is how teenagers communicate.

    While I’m sure there are a number of reasons not to get your kids phones, because of the technology and how fast things happen, I actually think that kids who do not get to use cell phones and internet, etc., until they are out of the home are handicapped when they do go out into the big bad world. But that’s just me. (Oh, and I was born in the 60s, too.)

    • Len Penzo

      “One month, she logged over 16k texts. This is how teenagers communicate.” Well said! Pithy and spot on. At the time I had no idea, but now I definitely know better!

      By the way, since I wrote this post well over a year ago, I have now become quite adept at texting too! In fact, I probably send out 2 or 3 texts a day on average. I know. I could never be a teenager again.

  • maybe the words of your nephew will put your texting woe’s to rest, “mom just think, we,ve gone back to the quieter days of writng eachother instead of calling”

  • jelybo

    LOL – love all these comments. My 18-year-old son keeps asking for a cell phone. He wants it to talk to his friends. Well, I think we’re some of the last folks on the planet to have a landline into our house. He has full access to that to use. He doesn’t have a car (what’s with today’s kids not wanting a license anyways?) so there’s really no reason for him to have one. Maybe once he starts driving, we may look at a stripped down, no texting, call us only type of phone. But, the way things are going, he’ll be out of college before that happens anyways – so we won’t pay for it anyways. :)

  • Ron

    My son’s have the cell phones with a $10 monthly charge card. That’s all they can be charged per month and I do know of other parents whose kids have racked up hundreds of $$$ in cell phone bills.

  • Kiki

    So were you mad At Matthew, because my Dad was furious.

  • Lisa

    I have Verizon, and I refuse to pay $30 a month for unlimited text [which is the only option with my family plan with 4 phones], so I can’t even receive a text. Works fine for me. :)

    Only time I’ve ever texted [back when I had it] was when we got the sonogram and found out our baby was going to be a girl, and I knew my husband was in a meeting. Otherwise, whatever it is CAN WAIT.

  • Paige

    I’m going to put it out there up front that I’m still a teenager, and just wanted to add in my two-cents.

    My parents got me a cell phone right before I entered 6th grade so I could have a way to contact them, as middle school is much less structured than elementary. It was a rudimentary flip phone, the cheapest one in the store. I was put on my mother’s plan, 800 minutes a month, and no texting. She had the service turned off on my phone, so I wouldn’t text and be charged 30 cents a text. Fast forward a little two and a half years. For my 14th birthday, my parents added texting to my phone. 200 a month. I was absolutely thrilled. I had a new phone at this point, and it happened to be one with a slide out keyboard, because the flip phones were more expensive that these. I made sure not to go over, counting the text messages I sent. However, no one told me that incoming messages counted too. I hit about 400, and my when my parents saw the bill, we talked about it. They understood, and I was aware of that from this point on. I didn’t text many people, because all of my friends had unlimited texting and texted a LOT, so they didn’t want to accidentally send me over. It was around this time that my mom started to see the benefits of texting. She was able to get ahold of me during school and whatnot. A few months later, she increased my plan to 500 texts a month, because even normal, “on our way”s and such added up. It stayed like that for about two years, until I met my boyfriend. We texted a LOT, and I would text a friend I met at a summer program. I hit my limit the last day, and told my mom I’d pay for the over fees. Well, it turned out that we were charged an extra 26 dollars. I’d try and watch the amount, but my phone couldn’t hold very many and I’d have to delete, so I lost track. A few days later, my parents told me they’d added more to my plan, because it was cheaper in the long run, but they didn’t tell me how many. I assumed it was 1000, because it seemed like a phone company’s increment. I found out a while later that they had added unlimited, and my mom got it as well. She loves it, she’s glad I can confirm things with friends more easily, and my friends are glad they can text me more. I still don’t have a smart phone – I have a very similar one to my second, a few replacements along the way, because of wear and tear, being stolen, and water damage. Insurance was helpful, we added it to mine at my 3rd phone. I go to a very large school, and things happen. It’s been very worth it, all of it.

    • Len Penzo

      Thanks for sharing that, Paige!

      You know, since I wrote this I have since become a big texting fan myself. I know. Don’t tell my kids. ;-)

  • rcklein

    All I can say is do not ever use Sprint. They assured me that I would only
    pay a small amount to text on recent cruise.
    And I am sitting here crying with a 800 dollar bill.
    no recourse after repeated calls and stop ins.
    Thank you Sprint!!!! (not)

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