The Better Business Bureau receives more than 38,000 complaints against cell phone companies every year. Most of those complaints are on overage charges and several of those can be traced to teenagers or children who got carried away with texts or downloads.
"I don't think that's any surprise that kids have a hard time controlling their use of downloading music or playing games or downloading apps, but it's really hard for the parent to control it," said Barb Grieman, vice president of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "Parents should be doing some research and homework on them before giving the child a cell phone. Parent should sit down and asking what are reasonable limitations?"
The Better Business Bureau approached cell phone companies asking what tips could they give to parents to help control those overage charges, and the companies responded with helpful tools for parents.
AT&T's "Smart Limits of Wireless" tool
This tool allows parents to set limits on how and when their child can use the phone. Parents can set a dollar amount on the number of downloadable puchases and then they receive a warning when their child approaches the limit.
Sprint's "Mobile Controls" tool
This tool allows parents to understand the patterns of their child's cell phone use. For example, parents can see what time of day children text the most and what the typical app they are downloading. Parents can also schedule a lock on their child's phone, like locking the phone every night at 10 p.m. so the child can't receive or send texts during the locked time.
Verizon's tool under "My Verizon Usage Controls"
Parents can set a monthly budget for downloads, minutes or texts. Then, they can recieve an alert when their child nears the limit. If you choose, parents can also cut off texts or downloads when the phone has reached the set limit.
U.S. Cellular's account tool
This tool allows parents to oversee child's data useage. You can receive text message alerts when data useage is close to the limit or you can block data going to a certain phone.
The Better Business Bureau recommends calling your provider and asking about parental controls before charges get out of hand. Note that there is a monthly charge for some of these tools.
Shannon Slatton reporting
Wednesday, August 01, 2012