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Texting Teens Generating OMG Phone Bills

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the time-for-the-unlimited-plan dept.

Communications 888

theodp writes "Last month, Washington high school junior Sofia Rubenstein used 6,807 text messages, which, at a rate of 15 cents apiece for most of them, pushed her family's Verizon Wireless bill over $1,100. She and other teens are finding themselves in hot water after their families get blindsided with huge phone bills thanks to hefty a la carte text messaging charges." Use of SMS in the US doubled from 2005 to 2006.

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Two words: (5, Insightful)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200245)

Prepaid phone.

Re:Two words: (5, Insightful)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200323)

I've got 3 words:

No More Phone.

Re:Two words: (4, Funny)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200455)

That'll cost her family another 30c.

Re:Two words: (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200471)

Stop being a pussy: Beat your kid. []

Re:Two words: (1)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200551)

3 words: Unlimited TXT messaging

Re:Two words: (3, Funny)

microAmp (962296) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200603)

Don't you mean?

66666 666677733 7446666633

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200351)

bad parenting

Goatse! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200407)

Goatse! []

Re:Goatse! (1) (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200501)

Yes, that would be a way to dissuade teens from texting, yes.

Re:Two words: (1, Funny)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200419)

Finger massage.

Re:Two words: (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200665)

You are not far off. This bill is nothing compared to the next one for RSI treatement. And while massage may help for a while it will provide only temporary relief.

Re:Two words: (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200425)

Online account management.

I don't know about Verizon, but around here Vodafone lets you see and control what your children/employees (for small business accounts) do with the subscriptions you're paying.

Three letters: WTF ??!? (5, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200577)

But seriously, why is a phone call cheaper than an SMS message? It's all a digital network, so in cost per bit, SMS messages are something like 66 times more expensive than a phone call.

Let's compare: Digital cell phones use about 14.4 Kbps of bandwidth. (which explains their clarity) Figure about 30 seconds of talking to get the equivalent of a text message, with the "Hello, is SO AND SO there? Yeah. Yeah. It's Billie. 'O, o joy ur so kul'. -CHUCKLE- Ok, see you later. By by. ".

That works out to a total of 54,000 bytes, or 108,000 Bytes/minute. I get about 1,000 minutes at $70/month, a la Verizon. Each minute therefore costs $0.07. So the cost per 30 seconds of conversation is something like 3.5 cents, for 56,000 bytes.

An SMS message is, at its longest, 160 Bytes long. Include headers, let's be generous and say it's double that. (it's not) 320 bytes in an SMS message. Here, we're asking for 15 cents for just 360 bytes?!?!?

54,000/3.5 cents = .00006 cents per byte ($0.000006 / byte)

360 bytes/15 cents = .04 cents per byte. ($0.0004 / byte)

If you were buying soda, it'd be like buying a 12 oz can of soda for about $20 while a 2 liter bottle costs $1.

Does that seem like good math to you? BTW: I bought into "unlimited text messaging" back when Verizon offered it, and have refused to upgrade plans until I get it. I've got a network monitor, and when something goes wrong I can get tons of messages all at once if I'm not careful.

Kids these days (?) (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200251)

So kids aren't used to dealing with "You can only be on the phone for this long" and such restrictions?

Re:Kids these days (?) (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200449)

Show me one parent that knows more about cells than their kids. One.

Re:Kids these days (?) (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200451)

That's the problem, they spend 30 seconds texting or calling to simply grunt "im coming out now" and then put the phone away.

The problem is they do this several times an hour.

My son gets credit once a month for his phone, the first few times it was gone within a day.
After a few times of this hes thinking ahead, now it lasts him a couple of weeks.

On the plus(ish) side of this, newer phones are gaining bluetooth text messages and sending things - it saves them texting and calling each other from opposite ends of the street corner.

227 texts a day?! (1)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200261)

What the hell? Doesn't she have anything better to do?

Re:227 texts a day?! (1)

antiaktiv (848995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200303)

With the average text taking half a minute to type, she spent almost two hours per day texting. Now, how much time does the average teenager spend on AIM or myspace?

Re:227 texts a day?! (5, Funny)

carabela (688886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200313)

So hitting F5 on Slashdot regularly is better?

Yeah yeah... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200353)

But I'm getting paid to do this.

Oh... You mean I'm not?


Re:227 texts a day?! (1)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200397)

Possibly, or she could have been mass-mailing them - sending a text to many numbers at once, and getting charged for each. Either way, it's a travesty just how much is charged for text messages. Someone more geeky^H^H^H^H^H knowledgeable than I can probably fill you in the the cost per byte or whatever...

Re:227 texts a day?! (1)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200441)

Apparently not...

Marti Rubenstein, said she has seen Sofia and her friends text each other even when they're in the same room.

Am I the only one who finds that mind numbingly stupid? Why not just... I don't know... talk to the person? Too much effort?

Re:227 texts a day?! (1)

no_pets (881013) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200587)

It's the electronic equivalent of passing notes.

Re:227 texts a day?! (1)

romcabrera (699616) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200655)

Maybe private conversations. Never happened you have been talking in a group and would like to say something privately to someone in the same room?

Yep (2, Informative)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200267)

That happened to me once. I figured "oh, at 10 cents per text message, it's no big deal." Then 2 months later my parents saw that I had texted enough to raise the phone bill $200 (mostly thanks to the AIM client that my phone had, which uses a text message for each IM sent and received, as well as another message to connect, and I believe another message to disconnect as well). My parents made me pay for it, of course.

A $1,100 phone bill? TSNF! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200277)

Solution: forbid her from texting her bff Jill.

Re:A $1,100 phone bill? TSNF! (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200459)

My thoughts exactly. It's not really news if a major wireless carrier is heavily advertising a package [] that would specifically combat this problem.


15 cents each?! (1)

mutende (13564) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200279)

at a rate of 15 cents apiece
Sounds very expensive to me. Here in Denmark the normal price for 1 sms is less than 4 cents, and some operators even offer flatrate...

Re:15 cents each?! (5, Insightful)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200343)

they used to be something like 5 to send free to recieve. Then it was 5 to send 5 to recieve, then it was 10 to send 5 to recieve.

Now it is 15c each way. I dont see how they can justify charging that much for a tiny exchange of data. It has risen WAY faster than the rate of inflation on a technology that should become cheaper (look at how minutes have come down) and it is ridiculous. My guess is that the only reason it works for the phone companies to do this is that the first people to start using them heavily are the kids with their parents buying them mobile phones. They dont have to pay per message so they dont think about the ridiculous costs (look at how much data is in a text message and how much a provider charges for data usage and it becomes clear how much of a rip off it is).

Re:15 cents each?! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200677)

You pay to recieve, too? Consumer protection here would never stand for that (domestic, anyway). There's been talk of enforcing limits on roaming charges across EU nations as well. Yay socialism, I guess.

Re:15 cents each?! (2, Interesting)

ihavnoid (749312) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200381)

Sounds very expensive to me. Here in Korea the normal price for 1 sms is around 3 cents, but no operators offer flatrate, due to its abuse by spammers.

At first, in Korea, all major carriers had provided flat rate plans, but once cell phone spammers started to abuse them (custom SMS spamming software + PC + flat rate plan = unlimited spamming capability), they quickly removed it from their plan list.
Seriously, I used to recieve 20+ SMS spams a day on the worst ages, but once carriers started to provide spam filtering (free of charge, can disable any time), the spam rate dropped to less than one per week.

However, there still are service plans that even provide 1000+ free messages per month, and it seems to be enough for most people.

Anyway, flatrate seems to be troublesome, and it seems to be (sort of) surprising that US carriers have those kind of rates.

Re:15 cents each?! (1)

Yez70 (924200) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200447)

Anyone caught spamming SMS on a flatrate plan would probably lose their cell service permanently and be subject to prosecution in the US. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who gets SMS spam actually - in the US.

Flatrate SMS is not offered on pre-paid plans/phones.

Re:15 cents each?! (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200611)

don't think I've ever heard of anyone who gets SMS spam actually - in the US.
you have now. i get them all the time.

Unlimited SMS.. (5, Informative)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200281)

You know Verizon does have unlimited SMS plans for only $15 per month... Just a thought for someone paying a $1100 phone bill... :-)

Re:Unlimited SMS.. (1)

Parlett316 (112473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200311)

And free texting in network.

Re:Unlimited SMS.. (4, Insightful)

bwalling (195998) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200629)

If 1 = $0.15 and = $15, then why is Verizon billing anyone $1100? The max bill should be $15. If I were selling something at $1 for 1 or $10 for 30, I certainly would charge you $12 for 32 of them instead of $32. If I charged you $32, you'd call me sleazy and you wouldn't tolerate it. Why have we been tolerating this from cell phone companies all this time?

SMS spamming? (2, Interesting)

deftcoder (1090261) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200283)

I know that certain companies like Cingular (now ATT) let you send text messages to people via email... e.g. or something similar to that.

Don't most of these companies charge on incoming messages, too? Wouldn't you just be able to spam the crap out of somebody's number to run up their bill?

In any other industry, I'd expect them to have this base covered... but you never know with the phone industry.

Re:SMS spamming? (3, Informative)

nsanders (208050) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200331)

Sadly, yes. Most companies ALLOW text messages on their phone even if you don't have it in your plan. If other people send you messages you will be billed their fixed rate per message (incoming), even if you don't reply. If someone else has unlimited text messaging they could effectively start spamming people (everyone remember the old pager bombs?) with the consequence of massive phone bills.

Re:SMS spamming? (1)

Clete2 (823221) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200413)

This is why a lot of people opt-out of even being able to receive them at all. I know of many people who have called their providers and removed the text feature altogether.

Re:SMS spamming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200589)

Man, where do you live in? Paying for INCOMING messages??!! And I always have thought that we have so bad in Poland.

Re:SMS spamming? (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200373)

On my prepaid Cingular phone there is no way to stop an incoming message. You have to pay for it ($.05) whether you want it or not. For instance, I often send text messages to phones via pidgin-im. If anyone were to send messages to my phone in that manner, they could run my balance to zero in short order.

Re:SMS spamming? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200643)

What was your number again?

This is really nothing new.. (4, Insightful)

Philus (58941) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200299)

..just a different way of doing it. Sounds like kids still needs to be taught about the consequences of their actions.

Re:This is really nothing new.. (1)

GiMP (10923) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200357)

True. I remember when my family first got a computer, my parents signed up with America Online for the free trial. Not because we planned to use AOL, but because it was "free".

Well, in those days, you paid about $3 per hour, and the trial was for 50 hours.

Imagine my parent's surprise when the usage was over 100 hours that month...

Re:This is really nothing new.. (2, Interesting)

Zen (8377) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200615)

Yeah, the kids need to be taught about consequences of their actions, but more than that the parents need to be taught that the kids are THEIR responsibility and need to be taught what is right and wrong, and if they can't control the kids then the kids shouldsn't have cell phones. I can't stand all these parents who are shocked at the bills their kids rack up and then call up the press to get an article somewhere in the hopes that the company will drop their bill because of the bad publicity. You created the problem, now figure out a way to deal with it. Too many people blaming society for things that are solely their responsibility.

I only have a baby, can't really relate to this exactly. However, I have many friends/coworkers who have teenagers, and I have to say that if I was in the market for a cell phone for a kid I wouldn't get a prepaid cell phone, but I'd get something like the disney phone. It's close to what I'd want, but not exact. Phone companies should really cater to the product that parents want, and not flat rates that make them the most money when the user's go over it.

Here's what I would want in a phone for a teenager:
Fully featured cell phone (wouldn't want the kid to feel like a reject with one of those four button phones)
Flat monthly minutes (rollover is preferred in the unlikely event they aren't all used)
'Normal" features such as free roaming, long distance, etc
The kicker is that when the included minutes or texts are used up, the phone does not allow any incoming or outgoing text messages, and only allows phone calls to predesignated password protected numbers (home, parents cell, etc). If the kid tries to send a text message or make a call to an unapproved number it will prompt for a password or request a calling card / prepaid card number to add extra minutes.

This way it is completely impossible to go over your minutes in a month, except by just a couple for emergency/calling home usage which would never amount to more than $5/month. I don't know why there isn't a product like this on the market, although Disney does come close from what I heard about it. This is really what parents want even though they don't know it yet because they haven't ever seen it. No parent really wants to give their kid free reign with a cell phone.

About the cost... (1)

MoHaG (1002926) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200315)

And I thought South-Afica was expensive. SMSs cost max ZAR0.75 (+-US$0.11) here and as low as ZAR0.25 (US$0.04) without any SMS bundles...

Well... (1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200317)

So i guess i'm pretty much alone on the whole i-hate-those-newfangled-cellphones-i-only-want-som ething-that-can-call-and-receive-calls front.

Oh well, live and learn.

Re:Well... (2, Interesting)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200405)

i-only-want-som ething-that-can-call-and-receive-calls

Like this? []

Re:Well... (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200439)

No, you're not. I have the cheapest-of-the-cheap phone I could get, and a pre-paid plan with minutes that are good for a year. I pay about $100-$150 or so per year (depending on how many minutes I use) and really have no need for texting or any other extra features.

Re:Well... (1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200595)

Ahh, good to know that there's somebody else here :) .

While I understand the whole cellphone-revolution thingy, I just don't need all that crap that's currently being merged into cells. Why would I need a camera, an mp3 player, worse, the Internet on my phone? I'm not a multimedia borg (yet), I can do most of this stuff comfortably at home, preferably on my PC. I'm not a conservatist, mind you (well, i AM reading slashdot, after all :) ), but some of the new, popular stuff just doesn't appeal to me. And yes, I do understand that this changes me into some sort of a basement-dweller who sees sunlight for 2 hours a day max, but, frankly, i don't give a damn. But while I'm neutral towards most cellphone-people, those who ultimately piss me off to no end are those, who play crappy songs on even crappier cellphone speakers so loud, that all you hear is some goddamn distorted white noise. And noooo, it doesn't stop there, they're bobbing and shaking about, waving hands, singing lyrics to the top of their voices, annoying the hell out of passing-by people. ...

*You have scored 10 out of 10 on the Asperger's Syndrome test.*

I get 1500 (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200321)

I get 1500 text messages with my plan. I used 6 last month. I never saw the need for 1500. I can't even imaging 6000+.

What 6807 messages really amounts to (2, Insightful)

TheMCP (121589) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200681)

Assuming a 31 day month and assuming she sleeps 8 hours a night, that's an average of one text message every 4.3 minutes all day long, every day. Of course in practice she probably has classes in which her teachers won't allow her to sit there typing away on her cell phone, and has homework (if she actually does it), and needs to put the phone down for a few minutes at meals to use her hands to shovel food into her mouth... so I'd guess that in practice during the time she finds available for texting, the actual rate of message transfer is much higher than once every 4.3 minutes.

Frankly if I had a kid sending text messages that often, I'd send them to a psychologist to try to help them figure out why they have this obsessive compulsive problem that they can't stop using the phone, and to help them get over it. A kid who is texting that frantically all the time has *problems*.

Oh, and I'd tell them they have to pay the bill, even if that means paying me back in installments.

Why text when you can talk? (1, Insightful)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200329)

I personally hate text messaging.

It's convenient once in a while- I get about 1 a month. For situations that you can't be disturbed in, it occasionally makes sense to text.

However, I don't get the obsession with texting that some teenagers have. Why text when you can talk? It's a heck of a lot easier, and texting is a literal pain to (I don't get how someone can type 200 texts a day and not have their fingers fall off).

It seems kind of silly to use text messages on a device with such limited input. A few phones have keyboards, but even then the keys are so small it's easier to talk.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (1)

HoldenCaulfield (25660) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200415)

To me, the real benefit of texting is when I don't want to talk to the person. There are plenty of times when what was supposed to be a 1-minute call turns into a 5-minute call . . .

Also, I'm sure if you were doing 200 texts a day, you'd become pretty proficient at it . . .

Re:Why text when you can talk? (5, Funny)

winmine (934311) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200465)

Perhaps you should take advantage of the new and popular acronyms to save time and make texting easier. Here are some relevant to your interests:

GOML (get off my lawn)
IGAB (I got a bingo!)
DFOL (dentures fell out laughing)

Parents and teachers are pussies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200475)

This is a problem that could easily be solved if parents and teachers weren't such pussies.

All the parents need to do is take away the kid's phone, both physically and by cancelling the account. It's as simple as that.

All the teachers would need to do is smash the phone of any kid caught sending these messages in class. They could throw it against the wall, or even step on it. It's as simple as that.

Of course, the PC culture so prevalent in America today would no doubt find such basic discipline to be "abuse" or "discrimination", even when it's clearly not the case. That's unfortunate, as the only solution to this sort of misbehavior is some good, old-fashioned tough love.

Re:Parents and teachers are pussies. (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200631)

All the teachers would need to do is smash the phone of any kid caught sending these messages in class.

In most jurisdictions, that's "willful destruction of property" or a similar criminal and civil infraction.

The rule of law does not allow the government to take private property without fair compensation. A teacher is, at best, part of the government. I suspect any teacher that earned their school a $300 replacement fee would pretty quickly loose their standing.

An "F" or detention is much simpler.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200479)

It's asynchronous, quiet, fast, and you don't annoy the crap out of everyone around you. Plus unlimited SMS messages is probably cheaper than unlimited calls.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200529)

I don't get the obsession with texting that some teenagers have. Why text when you can talk?

  • You can do so in a noisy environment (for everyone: bus, train. For students? The cafeteria, etc.)
  • You can do so in a quiet environment (class)
  • You can do it in low-signal-strength areas
  • Like, you totally can't call up Johnny-the-uncool-but-cute boy and say "sure, I'll go to the movies with you friday" with your friends in earshot. But OMG, you can text him and they'll never know!

Texts are also, in general, handy for when you want to get a quick message to someone without forcing them to drop everything. A phone call has more "drop what you're doing and look!", and voicemails are a pain when you can read in 1-2 button-presses what the message is.

Now, I don't understand why parents are obsessed with getting their kids cell phones. I remember NYC was going to ban them, and parents had a SHITFIT, as if being able to call their precious baby would save them from a terrorist attack...

asynchronous, faster, and persistent (4, Insightful)

straponego (521991) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200531)

If you have something quick to say, a text message is much faster and more convenient. You want to get rid of email too? Hey, let's get rid of forums like /. Why post something permanently when we could just have a giant chat room? All we have to do is get everybody together at once. In fact: let's all meet in person! It's ever so much more personal that way.

If you have something quick to say, a text message is much faster and more convenient. Texting is also particularly useful for bits of information you might need later.

OTOH, SMS is a really crappy technology. I think it's vastly overpriced even given how inefficient it is, but... wow. And the telcos have little incentive to fix it as long as people are willing to pay insane, outrageous prices per byte.

It's a very simple explanation (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200539)

school, its kind of hard to talk on the phone during class and not get caught, texting solves this.

cell phones becoming increasingly annoying, they should be banned in: cars (for the driver), schools, church, movies, restaurants, and probably a lot more places i can't think of right now.

thanks to the oligopoly phone market, texting costs money when it should be free, as it costs almost nothing for the providors. there is one good thing about it though, at least i don't to listen to some teenage moron gawking about the new pokemon game some of the time now, since they are quietly typing away their parents money :p

its hard to feel sorry for these dumb parents who let their teens have phones in the first place, or at least not make them pay for some of it themselves, or put a cap on it, or use prepaid plans.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (0)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200545)

Some kids are just really good at it. I saw one on the train who could average 1 word per second. It's something that I could never do, but I bet that if most of us on /. grew up with text messaging, we could do it too.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (1, Flamebait)

doormat (63648) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200581)

I can deal with texting at places like a rock concert or anywhere else that if I tried to make a call I wouldn't be able to hear a damn thing, or in places where its not appropriate to make a phone call (though some might consider the taps of your fingers on the keypad only slightly less annoying than you making a call right there). The only other useful situation is broadcasting - when you want to send a message or note to more than a few people at a time. Tell 10 of your friends you're having a party or something.

Otherwise it just seems to me that its an anti-social device. Instead of talking to someone you're sending one way messages.

You can't always talk in class..... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200609)

My son is in his second year of university. He says that a lot of these kids use their phones to talk with each other while in class. If they start talking normally, or even over their phones, the professor will hear, and thus will quickly put an end to their conversations. But when text messaging, it's nearly undetectable.

He says he's seen some people try to cheat on tests by messaging each other answers. Back in January or February he was telling me about an incident that he witnessed during a test he was writing. Apparently a group of five or six students from India or Pakistan were sending each other answers over their phones. The professor suspected they were cheating, and confronted some of them. They denied cheating, saying they were just using their phones as calculators. The professor still confiscated their phones anyways. A couple of those students started whispering to each other, so the professor kicked them out of the test.

So it's easy to see how a typical multiple-choice test, with perhaps 75 to 120 questions, could lead to several hundred messages being sent by a student, especially if there's collaboration between several other students. Of course, they probably wouldn't have to cheat on the tests were they not sending messages to one another during class, and instead paying attention to the lecture.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (1)

romcabrera (699616) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200617)

Messages are mementos, they can be preserved.
Also you can easily "talk in background" asynchronously with someone while doing something else (doing the homework, cleaning the house, eating, etc.)

Because, jackass (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200639)

If you can see someone texting, you could probably hear them talking. No really wants to hear your inane conversations.

Re:Why text when you can talk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200669)

Because children have become expert at texting under the desk. While this is a skill that is right up there in the modern world with programming via the hex keypad, it is useful to communicate during school and at night when one is supposed to be asleep. That way there is no chance the parent will know that the child is scheduling the sexual activity. As mentioned above, the parents could take the phone away, but that would require the parent to either choose to not be in 24 hour a day communication with the kid or setting and standing behind rules.

What I don't understand is that kids should have cell phones so they learn how to use them, but texting and phone calls can ate logged with time, so it is very clear if the child is breaking rules, and therefore consequences can be easily justified. Not only this, but it encourages lying as the child will lie about the use, yet few parents seem to willing to confront the lie with evidence. Therefore lying becomes a way of life.

I recall a time when it was very clear that the only children that needed phones and beepers and the like were the drug dealers and hookers and the like. I still feel that this is largely the case, but the wants of our society, like cell phones, have overcome the needs like one on one mental stimulation and parental contact.

It's about time texting caught on in the US (5, Interesting)

Ogemaniac (841129) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200355)

In many situations, it is both superior to and FAR more polite than yapping. I had my first cell phone when I lived in Japan, and I sent and received about twenty messages a day. Talking on cell phones was banned in many locations including public transportation, and severly frowned upon in most other public locations. It was like heaven.

Then I returned to the US: People yap while driving. Yap on the bus. Yap while in line. Yap yap yap, oblivious to the people around them or how annoying (and dangerous) they are being.

I blame this largely on the cell phone providers. It is obvious that a text message is far cheaper for them than a phone call, as the amount of information to be sent is tiny. Yet here in the states, text is expensive, typically the price of a minute of talk or so. In Japan, a text was 2-3 cents, while a minute of talk nearly ten times that. Text was automatically part of any plan that I saw. Such pricing is sensible, given the large amount of data that needs to be transferred for live calls, and the fact that it has to be immediate.

American wireless companies should drop the price of text down to a fair price (pennies) in order to encourage its use. Not only is this the fair market price, but it would help the adoption of a great complementary technology to direct voice communication.

Re:It's about time texting caught on in the US (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200395)

I blame this largely on the cell phone providers.
Yeah, that's it. Nothing to do with the culture.

Re:It's about time texting caught on in the US (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200583)

I would agree with you. There is a lot that the providers could do that would affect the culture.

Here in the UK, even the cheapest contracts(plans) provide more than enough texts for anyone but teenagers. I pay 10ukp or $20 a month and get 300 minutes and 300 texts. Some months, I may send over 30 texts. I think they are then charged at 5 pence (10c) for those who go over.

I have never heard of anyone here having to pay to receive them though.

Re:It's about time texting caught on in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200485)

That is, until people start texting on the road. I'd rather have someone yapping with a car kit and both hands on the wheel than trying to input text on a tiny keyboard while swerving around on a freeway. 12/1252209&from=rss []

Re:It's about time texting caught on in the US (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200519)

My kids have Cingular (now AT&T) pre-paid phones with a set budget per month. On these phones SMS messages are $0.05 each, so $0.15 is outrageous.

Re:It's about time texting caught on in the US (1)

coug_ (63333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200621)

In many situations, it is both superior to and FAR more polite than yapping. I had my first cell phone when I lived in Japan, and I sent and received about twenty messages a day. Talking on cell phones was banned in many locations including public transportation, and severly frowned upon in most other public locations. It was like heaven.

Then I returned to the US: People yap while driving. Yap on the bus. Yap while in line. Yap yap yap, oblivious to the people around them or how annoying (and dangerous) they are being.

Maybe you're not actually saying it, but it almost sounds like you're implying that texting while driving is safer than talking. Neither one are safe, but talking while driving is certainly safer than texting.

The problem is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200363)

you can not block SMS capability. At list on T-mobile, I am not sure about Verizon. Someone was texting me and I've asked them to block SMS altogether. The customer service rep offered me to change the phone number and credited the messages charged, but said that there is no way to not block SMS.

Companies don't want to fix it (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200375)

It could be fixed with digital-voice announcements of suspicious amounts and passcodes that limit an individual. But companies don't add these features because they *want* your kids to rake up fat bills.

Tmobile has unlimited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200401)

The T-mobile Sidekick III is only $199.99 with a 2 year contract and it has a full QWERTY keyboard and INCLUDES unlimited texting AND T-Mobile MyFavs unlimited calling to 5 people.

If I had teens that text'd that much I don't care if T-Mobile's reception isn't always 100% and I don't think my future kids would either.

Get the unlimited plan before the next bill (1)

BRTB (30272) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200403)

Little hint for people who get a huge bill for text messages or call-time overages: call the cell company and see if they'll retroactively switch you to the unlimited text plan or a calling plan with more minutes for that month.

I've personally done this with T-Mobile (had a little mishap with a Nagios network monitor sending me a few thousand notify messages by mistake) and it was a great relief to watch my cellphone bill drop from several hundred dollars to the usual $50.

I think the trick is, you have to do it before the next month's bill comes in; that, and T-Mobile has consistently been the least evil of the cellphone companies I have to deal with. If you're on another carrier, YMMV.

6,807 messages? (1)

DrPepper (23664) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200429)

6,807 messages in 30 days is 227 a day and somewhere round about 12 to 15 messages an hour on average. Either the number is an exaggeration, or she must have sore fingers.

Re:6,807 messages? (3, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200533)

I (heart) U
U 2
U See WHF (what's his/her face)
OMG YNK (you're not kidding)

I can easily seeing a totally meaningless conversation with nothing but acronyms and shortcuts and words no bigger than 5 letters, all in the span of a few minutes. Makes me wonder about our next generation. It really does.

QTFA (2, Informative)

Austaph (893218) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200625)

Wireless companies, meanwhile, are rolling out new packages to meet demand. "For a teenager to send thousands of text messages a month is not unusual," said John Johnson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. Last month the company introduced an unlimited texting plan because even its highest bundle of free text messages -- 5,000 a month -- wasn't enough.

Not just kids ... talk to my wife (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200453)

My wife's bill this month was over $200 and it's usually around $30. It was mostly from texts and receiving local calls from her pregnant friend (I say she's pregnant because that's apparently why she's been calling so much).

I hate phones to begin with. I've been begging her to let us disconnect our land line. Not so that we can migrate to wireless-only (I don't own a cellphone and never plan to) but so she can also ditch her cell phone and we can enjoy the peace of never having someone make a ringing noise (or worse - a cheesy song) in our home or pocket.

So yeah ... considering a land line costs $20 and she can make all the texts she wants via MSN/ICQ/etc. for FREE that $200 bill almost spelled divorce.

Thanks to the Internet there are so many un-intrusive forms of instant communication. I realize that cell phones provide a certain level of convenience for a lot of people (being able to phone home while you're shopping or for teenagers to communicate to their parents while they're hanging out with friends etc.) but for me I can not see the purpose of a phone. To spend $200 in one month for one is absolutely mind-boggling. I can't imagine what I'd do if my child ran up an $1100 bill. To say they'd never be allowed near a phone again is just the tip of the ice berg.

Re:Not just kids ... talk to my wife (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200537)

that $200 bill almost spelled divorce.

That's a solid relationship you have there.

Re:Not just kids ... talk to my wife (4, Funny)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200599)

If you were honestly thinking about divorce over a paltry sum of $200, you really might wanna go over why you married in the first place. :)

15 cents per message? (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200457)

Surely with the logistics involved, even if you take into account how many cell phones can be connected in the area at once, it wouldn't cost $0.15/text message. Companies are overcharging, but $1,100 for a phone bill is ridiculous no matter what your plan is. It's a racket because all mobile phone providers have similar plans, so if you go to a "competitor" you get screwed anyway, there's no incentive to switch except to all be under the same carrier so you can get discounts for phoning each other.

Prepaid in other countries (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200461)

15 cents is ridiculous. In the Dominican Republic, 95% of the time, people buy prepaid phone cards for their phones (pretty much no one has plans)... texting costs 1 peso (3 cents)... it's surprising that the main wireless company there (verizon) is the same one that charges 15 cents in and out here in the states... and EVERYTHING that you receive (calls, texts, etc...) is free.

I hate text messages (1)

macaroo (847109) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200477)

First, what are these children doing? They must be writing chapters of the next Great American Novel. I have had a prepaid cell phone for 3 years and never had a text message. Then one day I had a profoundly dead individual who needed service on her personal computer and sent me a text message. What to do? I had to dig out the manual and learn how to thumb type to answer her! I tried to turn the service off on the phone because she was pestering me with these messages. To no avail, it was not possible.

Make the kids buy their own phone. (0, Flamebait)

SocialEngineer (673690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200481)

I know a couple of kids who come into a coffee shop I frequent who will sit there and call random people they don't even know - spending hours doing it - just because it is fun. I talked with them at one point, and they told me about how they kept up a 3 month relationship with this older woman, and they professed to be her sister from out of state. Even talked with the older woman's grand children.

If they can't learn the value of the tools we give them, then don't give them the tools. That, or get one of those kiddy phones that only allows 4 pre-programmed numbers - that way, they can call mommy and daddy when their friends ditch them at the ice cream social, or something like that.

it is great that so many of us can afford to give our children luxuries that we never even dreamed of having, but when they don't understand the usefulness of the luxuries and just dick around constantly with them, then something needs to be done.

Two things check what plans are out there (1)

emj (15659) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200487)

I pay between 0 cents to 7 cents per SMS, depending on what plan I choose. Now the question is should that be something phonecompanies could do for you, choosing the best plan for you. Sure one big hurdle is that most flatfees are paid one month in advance and the per minute cost is paid after that month has past.

But really there is nothing except that that hinder the implementation of letting the phone company choose the cheapest plan for you..

I blame the parents (3, Insightful)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200489)

Giving a cell phone to a teen WITHOUT giving them instructions or restrictions, would be like handing the keys to your car to a teenager that just got a drivers license. Oh wait, they do that too. If you are going to give your teenager a cellphone, without either blocking SMS, or restricting its use, the parents are to blame. It's like anything else with most teenagers. If you don't define the restrictions, they will abuse it.

Durable phone (1)

glaserud (66891) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200507)

Does this mean she actually has a phone that lasts for 6807 messages?

Old news here (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200509)

Teens have been raking up text bills that even went past those 1100 bucks. No, I don't understand the text craze. Personally, I prefer talking under normal circumstances. It's actually even cheaper here when you compare the amount of data you can exchange in the one to four minutes you could talk here for the price of one text message.

Kids have always had insane phone bills. That phenomenon didn't hit the US with their flat local call plans, but here it's been a lengthy battle between the kids who prefer the impersonal way of communication because it eliminates the "danger" of "saying the wrong thing" with your body, and their parents who have to foot the bill for it.

OMG you're late .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200511)

... over here in Europe we had the same stories years ago.

And? (1)

asninn (1071320) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200515)

And...? I'm not actually sure what the point of this story is. Teens do stupid things? Wow, news at 11! As long as it was just a *comparatively* minor bill of 1100 USD and as long as there were no consequences besides the financial ones, it's no big deal - at least not for anyone other than the girl's parents.

Who's disciplining the parents? (4, Insightful)

nanojath (265940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200521)

Janet Boyd, a lobbyist for Dow Chemical, said she and her husband "nearly died" when they got a $70 charge for their 20-year-old daughter's text-messaging. They went to an unlimited plan.

There's so many things wrong with that sentence I don't know where to begin.

TINSF - "Me paying this bill, that's what's nsf" (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200571)

Some carrier that shall remain nameless is offering unlimited texting for "only a few dollars more a month" over your voice plan.

If you haven't seen the ad, here it is [] .

More commentary here [] .

Ah the good ol days (4, Insightful)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200585)

Remember those huge phone bills from long distance BBS usage back in the day? I never reached over a $1000 a month but I've had a few hundred bucks a month on occasion.

Read the friggin contract people (4, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200601)

First there was this guy [] whining because it took more than one button click to bail out of the credit card subscription to an anti-virus service, now it's parents whining because they didn't anticipate that the cel company provided less minutes than their kid uses.

Is it really too much to ask that people read the contract or EULA, and if they accept it, not complain when they find that they made a mistake?

I'm not even remotely Libertarian, but for God's sake accept some personal responsibility for your actions.

The only appropriate response . . . (0)

Caffeinate (1031648) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200637)

omg!!1! lol, u r soooo scrued!

OMG... The headache... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#19200651)

My Dad got screwed by this in a different way. He had text messages turned off because he didn't want to pay a buck for the ten text messages that he gets spammed for every month (I get them too). Sprint recently bought out Nextel and their website now redirects to the Nextel web servers. As a Sprint customer, you now need to re-register on that re-directed website to access your account information. You put in all your information, click the submit button, and an activation code is sent to your phone as a text message. Since my Dad had text messages blocked, he didn't get this activation code. He called support but they have no idea what's going on. So he called me to look into the situation. Text messages was enabled on his phone and I walked him through the registration process. Now he's arguing with Sprint about the 14 text messages that came in during the three day period he had text messages enabled.

Parental discipline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19200657)

6,807 / 30 days = 226.9 a day
226.9 / 16 waking hours = 14.18125 per hour

I think the parents really need to teach her better things to do with her time.
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