Children and teens can easily go over their cellphone data limit playing games, surfing the Internet and downloading music. When it comes to monitoring your child’s cellphone and data use, there are easy steps parents can take to ensure that your monthly bills don’t come as an unpleasant surprise.

In 2011, the Better Business Bureau received 38,420 complaints against cellular telephone services and equipment – most regarding billing issues – making it the number one complaint category in the BBB system.

However, cellphone carriers have tools to monitor and, in some cases, lower your bills (Note: T-Mobile did not respond to BBB’s request for information):

AT&T – “Smart Limits for Wireless” lets parents set limits on how and when their child can use their phone, including setting a dollar limit for downloadable purchases. As the child approaches the download limits, he or she will receive an advance warning notification. And once a limit is reached, another notice is sent that the service will be stopped until the next billing cycle begins.

MetroPCS – MetroConnect” allows parents to control purchases by only funding the account with the child's monthly allowance. Once depleted, no more purchases can be made on that phone.

Sprint – “Sprint Mobile Controls” allow parents to clearly understand their child’s talk, text and app use habits. Parents can lock their child’s phone on-demand or schedule locks, such as during dinner, school or late at night.

U.S. Cellular – My Account” allows parents to receive text message alerts when data usage is close to the limit as well as block data to a specific handset.

Verizon – My Verizon Usage Controls” allows customers to keep a tight rein on accounts. Families or individuals can control wireless budgets with monthly usage allowances on each controlled line for voice minutes, messaging, data and content purchases such as ringtones, games and downloads. Free text message alerts are sent when limits are near and when they are reached. Once the allowance is reached, there is also an option to restrict usage.

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