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DSS's cell phone bill was over $900 - Page 2

post #21 of 78
My 14 year old understand that there are different rates for different things-different times of day, locations, etc.

About 6 months ago, I got a cell bill for $500, our regular charges for DH, myself and 14 yr old dd is $85. Turns out, dd had spent an hour online on her phone. Now, when we gave her the phone, we told her she was responsible for all "extra" useage, like texting, internet etc. She knew there were extra charges, but, she didn't really understand how they worked or were billed.

DH and I talked about it and decided that she had to learn that ignorance isn't an excuse and that if it was her own cell bill as an adult, she would be the one responsible for it. At the same time, we didn't want her to think we were treating her like an adult when she wasn't, so we discussed with her that we would pay half and she would pay half. Also, I explained that I would call the cell company and see if they would reduce the charges, and that if she was responsible for the bill on her own, that's exactly what she would be doing. As it happens, they removed all the charges, and then at my request blocked internet from all three of our phones, which was what I had thought we had done already, that was where my mistake.

My belief is that we are raising our kids to be responsible adults. If your son was already an adult responsible for his own bills, he would have to pay for the whole thing, even if he didn't know there would be different charges. And the only way for him to learn that is if he is responsible for at least some of it. Being sensitive to the difficulties of him getting a job, I would suggest not making him pay for all of it, but I think the best way to teach him would be for him to be responsible for at least some of it.

I won't pretend that I know how to deal with having a child straddle two households, I have sole custody of my oldest, so I don't deal with visitation. But, I do think that your son needs to have the responsibility of earning money to pay at least a portion of the "luxury" bills he encurs-cell phones, car insurance, gas etc. The best way for our kids to learn that it takes money to live life and that they will be expected to be responsible for paying their bills is if they have some ways of earning money and paying bills will still under the safety net of mom and dad.


ETA: my 14 year old would have been capable of paying her half of the internet usage bill because she already has a part time job working for her grandmother in the family business. At 14, her job options are more limited, so had she not been lucky enough to be working for family, we probably would have worked something else out. However, a 16 year old boy can at least mow lawns or something to earn money, even if he's not able to really get a "real" part time job.
post #22 of 78
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
dar i am sorry but your dd and her friends dont count. just like thyra.

she is far too precocious.

do you know even most adults dont understand roaming - what exactly roaming is (we had this huge conversation with a verizon friend). yes they are aware if they go out of the range it costs more. but all the other pieces many adults have no clue.

i do wonder what amount of knowledge the stepson has about phone charges. i mean if he wasnt paying for it would he even be aware of roaming or how much that really costs.
I kind of take offense to that. I know I have always been the more "responsible" kid of my parents, but I don't think that being 16 and unaware makes it ok for a kid to walk around with their head in the clouds totally oblivious to all things going on surrounding money. Roaming charges are on all cell commercials just about, they are advertised all over the place. He knew they existed, he just didn't bother to find out how they applied to vacay in mexico.

My brothers have goofed before, and they have always been held accountable - b/c they are smart enough to know that there are consequences to acting irresponsibly. I know that MDC is all about AP parenting - but we want children who can pay all their own bills and live productive lives of their own someday. A 16yo is old enough to be held accountable for not double checking things.
post #23 of 78
I guess I'm kind of confused. How do you not know you would be paying extra charges if you are in a different country? I would understand if the kid was 10 but the OP said he was 16. To me, I think that is old enough to take responsibility for the mistake. I think he should be told and definitely make some sort of contribution to the payment. Whether by chores or whatever.
post #24 of 78
I think a lot of kids only remember flat billing. When I was a kid, calling long distance was a BIG DEAL because it was expensive. Now, I can call my ILs for free in the UK. Cell plans have flat fees. If I were a kid growing up with that kind of phone knowledge, I might not think...hey, wonder if there are extra fees? From Mexico? There are no extra fees if you go to say, Texas and it's right there so...I mean, really a kid might not even think of it. THE ADULTS didn't, did they?

I think he needs to know because if he doesn't know now, he won't know if there's a next time and if he does it once and no one mentions it, you certainly can't blame him if it happens again. Also, it sounds like this means he's not going on a family vacation this summer because the money is no longer there, that's a pretty direct consequence.
post #25 of 78
Let's see... I was born and grew up in a place where we graduated high school at 16 and started work and universities. At 16. So you can guess where I'm going with this, right?

I would definitely tell him so that he realizes the cost and it does not happen in the future. I would also make sure that he understands exactly what his cell phone service covers and what's extra. I would also make sure that he realizes that from now on these kinds of expenses are on him.

The intensity of the discussion and how much to hold the kid accountable for this particular incident would depend on how you answer these questions:

* Did you have any kind of discussion regarding cell phone fees when you gave him the cell phone? If not, your mistake. Learn from it.

* Were there any issues with him ever incurring extra charges in the past?

* Does he show any remorse when he is informed of the bill amount?

In our case, I have zero doubt that DSD (17) would know that using the phone in a foreign country is more expensive. She has traveled, and this has never been an issue. I am certain she would have known this a year ago just as well (even two years ago). Then again, we are not afraid to discuss the bills with her, so you have to judge for yourself and your situation. I am convinced that whether he realized that it's more expensive or not, he should be told about the amount, and asked for an opinion on how to take care of the bill. He might not be able to actually offer money, but hopefully the "OUCH, I can't believe I did that!" will kick in, and he'll offer to help out.

Best of luck! Would love to hear your update.

P.S. I would not guilt him about the vacation, unless he is completely blowing the whole thing off, or asking directly "Why aren't we going on vacation this year?". I'd simply reply "We have a few extra expenses we have to take care of this summer "

P.P.S. I think very few 16 y.o. wouldn't realize that cell phone coverage in a foreign country is extra.
post #26 of 78
As someone who was a teenager pretty recently and has a teenage brother... I find it hard to believe a 16 year old wouldn't know that different countries aren't covered. My mom has never told either of us that but we have seen enough commercials to know that other countries are generally not included.

Even if he sincerely had no clue, I feel it is important for someone close to being an adult and possibly on his own to know now that cell phones cost a LOT out of country (and any other extras!) unless it is in the plan. almost a grand is a huge deal and he should know. Not to feel guilty or to blame him for the missed vacation... but to know what to expect when he is lookign for his own cell plan. He should also have the option to help make up for it... he might WANT to do chores even if he isn't expected to. I know I would have wanted to help out. Even if my parents took the blame, it was still my actions causing the problem and considering I get so much else from them... it doesn't hurt to give to them. He might feel similarly... or he might just learn to know that there are details to everything and he needs to be more careful... he won't always have parents to help him out with his bills.

I also think it is a good idea to give him a chance to explain. maybe for some crazy reason he needed to make a call.. maybe his mom borrowed the phone... who knows? I'd think he should have known to tell you but then if he didn't know cell phones are for in country only it isn't a surprise haha. However, WHY he made the expensive calls might change your feelings on the matter... and if it was just because he wanted to talk to a buddy then its a chance to explain to him that sometimes fun calls aren't an option and to either send post cards in the future or wait til he is home. Again, no need to lay on the blame or guilt.. but it IS a learning experience and that definitely offers up different options than using the phone... no one NEEDS to make fun calls to buddies while on vacation
post #27 of 78
I just think it's weird that everyone wants to punish the kid for not knowing, but no one questions the adults who didn't seem to think about it either...till they got the bill. If grown ups can space on that one, why not a kid?
post #28 of 78
I'm also confused about why international service was even turned on on the phone -- most companies make you specifically request that so you'll know it costs more. And, as someone who has used her cell phone in many foreign countries, let me also add that it's usually not more than $1/minute in Europe, and in Mexico and South America maybe $1-$5/minute tops. And along the US/Mexico border it switches back and forth usually without consequence. So my point here is that $900 means a LOT of minutes! How long were they there? Did you talk to him? How much calling would he possibly do on vacation? Seems exorbitant to me.

ETA: Or were these internet charges? That could do it.
post #29 of 78
I just asked my 14 yr old ds and he wouldn't have known that the charges are higher in a different country. Of course, he just recently graduated from a tracphone to a real line and started texting so he might be a bit behind the times.

I just don't see it as a common sense type thing. If dss didn't know about roaming fees, how can you hold him responsible? Of course, he needs to be told about roaming fees and I would also tell him how much his phone calls cost but I would leave the vacation out of it. Hopefully he will offer (or could be prompted) to help pay some of it off with housework or babysitting or lawn mowing or whatever.
post #30 of 78
Just to reference the comments on commercials, in this house, we don't watch commercials. Everthing we watch is recorded on tivo, and we FF passed every commercial. My daughters tv watching consists of approximately an hour a day of television and it's all prerecorded. She isn't into tv.
post #31 of 78
I don't know - I have a hard time believing that a teenager wouldn't know that there would be extra charges in another country. I have Verizon and get a "Welcome to Mexico" text every time I cross the border (frequently, since I live in Mexico!). I have a special plan that allows calling from and within Mexico at no additional charges, but I'm definitely made aware when I'm in a new zone - and it tells me what my per minute and per text charges are (more for text, 0 for minutes). However, what I do believe is that a 16 year old would know it would cost more, but not realize it would cost THAT much more, even if they got a text with the per minute charge. My own husband managed to run up $300 in a week roaming a few years ago when he was out of town on business, just from calling me a couple of times a day, and making a couple of business calls a day. 5 or so calls a day over a week added up to $300! And he was in the US! He knew he was roaming, but he didn't do the math to figure out just how much it would cost. And if my 30 something year old husband did that, I can see a 16 year old doing it.

In any case, I don't see anything that would be gained by NOT telling him. Had I just quietly paid that $300 extra phone bill when my husband ran up the charges, and never told him how much it cost, he might have done it again without realizing it. There are ways to talk to your SS about it without making him feel like crap about it. He might have some good ideas for how he can help you guys resolve the bill. I know that I would have wanted to help pay for the charges at his age. I also don't have a problem telling him, again respectfully, that the money is coming from the vacation fund. That's what responsible grown ups do - they pay their bills, even if they are unexpected and even if it means they have to bypass some fun. Sixteen is not to young to learn that lesson and live it.
post #32 of 78
I have a 15 yo DD, and I just asked her whether she would use her phone in a foreign country. Her reply was, "No, mom, it costs more." I asked her how she knew this and she said, "It is common sense - roaming is only free within the United States."

So, yes, I would talk to the 16 yo. I would hold him AND his mother responsible for a $900 bill that HE racked up that will impact YOUR family. A 16 yo is old enough to take some responsibility for their actions.

And I would also call Verizon back to see if there are texts sent to every subscriber's phone regarding usage rates like other Verizon customers have mentioned in this thread. If that is the case, and he ignored them, I would be even more upset.
post #33 of 78
Yeah, if a text was sent to his phone informing him of charges and he ignored it I would be extremely upset.

I guess my first step would be to sit down and talk to him about it!
post #34 of 78
sorry thyra i didnt mean to offend you.

see the thing is these kids are not in the clouds if they are not paying their own bill. they have no idea what is going on. yeah you would be surprised. i mean this is phone plans. lets not even go where birth control and AIDS knowledge is concerned.

i go to community college right now and you will be surprised how many know so little.

and the confusing part is that some carriers treat canada and mexico as local calls or heavily discounted like 5 cents a minute.

plus on the other hand roaming is roaming. anytime you move out of your area and just go to the next area code area and you start paying bucks.
post #35 of 78
If the adults did not think about it in advance, then the child cannot be held responsible. He should be made aware of the bill and how to avoid this in the future.
post #36 of 78
I agree that if all the adults involved (Dad, step-mom, and his mom) didn't think about it beforehand - and maybe even suggested not taking the phone, then the 16 yo shouldn't be held accountable and made to pay. I do think he should know how much the bill totaled - definitely. But I don't think he should be made to feel terrible about it or that the family can't vacation now as a result. If he wasn't warned ahead of time (or you didn't have the phone company disable international use), it's not fair to put all the blame on the kid.

*I* didn't realize how much it cost - my brother calls me from time to time from various countries as he travels for work. I used my cell phone when we vacationed in Puerta Vallarta (and don't think it charged a ton - though, the calls were mostly to others there with us). In fact, I didn't give it much thought until recently when we were on a road trip and I was reading here on MDC from my iphone when I got a text message saying something about it being a $19.99 fee from Mexico to continue browsing b/c we were in AZ and then CA close enough to the border. I shut my phone off whenever that message popped up - but it's possible to miss text messages and all carriers may not warn of this.

Basically, I think the parents and the kid are all to blame - so the bill should be split or not made to be such a big deal (I know it's a lot of money, I'm just saying all teens don't know about roaming fees).
post #37 of 78
Oh please make the connection for him. Yes, it most likely was an accident but that doesn't mean you don't make the connection! Adults don't realize this, it was a life lesson.

Have cheap fun and explain to him why you can't do something more extravagant.
post #38 of 78
I can't imagine not telling a 16 year old about the bill. That doesn't serve them at all, IMO.

I don't know what people mean by "guilt tripping" in this instance, but...if you have to cancel plans for a vacation with your teen because of an unexpected $1000 bill, I mean are you supposed to *lie* to them about it?

You can explain that the unexpected expense means we'll have to cut back on other things so as to not break the budget without pointing a finger and screaming "YOU did this, you bad bad kid!" Will he feel bad about it? Well, probably, but who wouldn't? Whenever I have made a mistake like that I feel a pang of regret.

If he were 6, it would be one thing. But in 2 years he'll likely be starting in the road to getting his own cell phone, being more responsible for himself financially, ect. I don't think you can save teens from the truth of what happens when you blow your budget (even in error) nor should you! You can still acknowledge your own mistake (Wow, I can't believe that I didn't read that fine print either, OUCH!). But still, it is what it is.

I too know many clueless young people when it comes to the fine print and financial management--a direct consequence of them being sheltered from learning from financial mistakes either of their own making OR not being allowed or thought to be involved with the ooopsies of the parents. My parents taught me NOTHING about finances. They didn't even let me keep my paychecks from my after school and summer jobs--I had to sign them over to them and they gave me an allowance. Luckily for me I hate shopping, otherwise I could have destroyed myself that first week of college with all the credit card companies chasing after the students on campus! I did rack up some very painful telephone bills though--after my first $700 mistake I learned quickly.

OP, please don't deprive your son of a chance to see what happens when someone doesn't read the fine print! Go over the bill (calmly, kindly), explain your mistake, show him where to find that info from the cell phone provider (again, he won't always be on your line, it's good for him to figure out now to always read the fine print!). Give him a hug, esp. if he expresses shock. Tell him you're not going to punish him for your mistake, but that (if this is the case) some plans are going to have to be altered a bit because of the $$. Then be kind and tell him about a time that YOU screwed up with a big unexpected bill other than this one!
post #39 of 78
Originally Posted by thyra View Post
Ok, yes it was 10 years ago (exactly almost). But, roaming in country and roaming in a foreign country are totally different things. And just b/c cell phones are big part of our culture doesn't absolve the teen of being a responsible cell user - and at 16 I would bet alot that he could have read the policy, or asked a question.
Honestly, I'm 39 years old, and have read my cell phone contract and had no idea that calling from Mexico would lead to a $900 phone bill. I think the key lesson here was learned by everyone is that no one can make assumptions about what a teen ( or an adult) may know about cell phone charges. It's a painfully expensive one, but I don't see the need to make anyone feel bad about it. Talk to him about what happened and be very clear about what he can and can not do with his cell phone and move on. It sucks but that's the way it is. Hurt feelings aren't going to make that bill go away.

PS....I just spoke to my 16 yo about this. He had no idea that traveling to a foreign country would result in high roaming charges. He also didn't know that unless you have a plan that covers internet on the phone that the charges can be upwards of $2.00 per minute of online time. Please don't assume that your DSS knows. Unless you specifically told him then in I think you need to be fair and at least give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe he really didn't know. Like I said above, older people than him could make the very same mistake :-)
post #40 of 78
BTDT... We were in Mexico 3 yrs ago and my ( then) 15 yr old was laying on the bed talking to his girlfriend. Now his dad handled all his cell phone plan/phone and I said to him that I wasnt sure if there was extra charges... Yup there was. 350 worth.

I didnt know.. His father didnt tell him not to bring it. DH's work phone was international and he never sees a bill so he wouldnt have know how expensive.

His father wanted me to withdraw money from DS's savings account I refused and told him if he wanted paid back then DS would have to pay him back from his part time job. <savings is from bdays, holiday, grandma gifts>

He never pressed the issue.

We know now.
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