The last few weeks I’ve had several very interesting conversations with parents about cell phones and the unplanned expenses that have been incurred during the first few months after the purchase.
One mom explained how her son had lost his phone the same week he got it so he thought he didn’t have to pay the bill. Each time a bill arrived he threw it away. By the time mom and dad knew what was happening, it had gone to collections and they owed the entire three year contract amount, over $1800!
Another mom just mentioned this weekend that her daughter had downloaded one ring tone but that she was continuing to be charged for it each month. The phone company said “sorry, that’s the way it is.” After another month being charged numerous times for the same ring tone, the mom called the company again. This call reached a more helpful customer service representative and they credited the mom back all the money for the ring tones.
Recently I was talking with over a dozen grade nine girls, all of whom had cell phones. I learned that almost half of them had had a cell phone bill of over $300 in the first month or two after getting the phone. One girl’s first bill exceeded $700.
If you have a pre-teen or teen getting close to the point of acquiring their own cell phone, here are a few things to keep in mind:
*write a list of “needs.” Why are they getting the phone? Texting, emergency calls? Be specific.
*comparison shop together and read the fine print carefully. Doing this online can be a convenient way to save time and avoid “emotional” sales tactics in the stores. Have your child write down the positive and negative features based on their needs and goals for the plan.
*make sure they understand the cost of a “free” phone. A long term contract may not be what either of you want right off the bat.
*ensure they understand the consequences if they don’t stay within the plan specifications!
*go through the bill together each month and ensure there are no surprises. Every call should be identifiable; same with the ring tone downloads etc. If there are surprises, deal with them right away.
*let them know that you believe in them and their ability to take care of the phone and use it wisely.
This type of contract is often one of the first financial contracts a young adult will enter into. As parents, we need to be involved in helping them understand the importance of being thorough in their research and how to make a good decision. This will help everyone be happy with the end result.