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Reach out and text someone – 20,000 times a month

Submitted by on Friday, 10 April 2009 No Comment
Dad, you are forgiven for consistently running up overage charges even though you swore for months that you'd quit yapping and there was no need to go to a more expensive plan that would save money in the long run.

Oh, and that nasty habit you have of checking NBA scores from your phone even though the Web isn't included in the plan? Really, it's no big deal now.

No big deal compared to a 13-year-old in Wyoming who racked up close to $5,000 in charges when she sent and received 20,000 text messages a month even though her plan didn't include the service.

That's close to 700 messages a day. Most were sent from school at a clip of 300 a day.

I can almost understand understand how a teen can text that much. An 11-year-old family friend often will wake up in the morning to three dozen messages. I know other parents whose teens  have racked up hundreds in extra charges, but that was mainly due to surfing on the weekends.

It's hard to understand, though, how a student can send 300 messages in a school day without a teacher somewhere along the line noticing that the kid was looking down and not at the board.

"She went from A's and B's one semester to F's in two months," Dena Christoffersen's dad, Gregg, said in a story at denverpost.com.

What's a dad to do?

Gregg took a hammer to the cell phone. Smashed it to smithereens. I bet that felt great. Can't say I blame him. I've wanted to do that with my husband's, too, and his Sir Talks A Lot habits haven't cost even a fraction of Dena's bill.

She's also grounded until the end of the school year. That wouldn't work with Dad and, besides, he'd just be on the phone even more if he were on home confinement.

The Christoffersens told a KUSA television reporter that they got the phone in case Dena needed to reach them. According to a transcript posted at cnn.com, they didn't know that she could send text messages even though they weren't included in her plan. Yep. Learned that lesson with Dad and his Web surfing.

Over charges are an easy problem to solve if a parent knows how. Verizon, which is the Christoffersens' company and mine as well, offers a package of controls parents can use to restrict minutes and messaging, even the time of day the user is allowed to talk. The scary part: The children pictured on the Verizon page clearly are pre-teens, so don't think you're delaying the issue until even junior high.

It's not easy to solve, though, if you don't take the time to read up on what's available. Many parents probably wouldn't think of setting restrictions on their kids' phones. Not until they get burned to the tune of $5,000 like the Christoffersens were.

As for Dena, she told the television reporter that she "felt really" bad and had learned an important lesson.

When your parents tell you not to do something," she said, "don't do it."

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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