How Some Families Control Text Messaging Costs

By: Christine Peppler

Text messaging can be costly and is more often the reason for exceeding cell phone plan limits than voice calling for those with families. On the other hand, text messaging can be less disruptive in some situations than voice calling and can certainly help to keep loved ones in contact. In fact, in a recent study reported by Samsung Mobile, parents and teens reportedly felt their relationship improved and communication increased when teens and parents interacted via text message. For most families however, budget concerns have to take a front seat.

In an informal survey it was found that families take a variety of approaches in controlling the cost of text messaging. At one extreme some families merely report that they don't use text messaging and, in fact, have cell phones that don't possess the capability of sending or receiving messages. Voice calling is their primary need and only service. Other families report that texting is used only in specific circumstances, such as when a family member needs to report only that they will be delayed in arriving home or to say "call me". Such users also report that they have "unknown" callers blocked to avoid any unsolicited messages.

Families that had a higher usage of text messaging reported other approaches. For some, teen usage of the service was a primary concern. To cap usage, parents sometimes had teenagers accept responsibility for text messaging charges that exceed the plan limits while others made use of more restrictive plans to cap usage at predetermined levels. Such restrictions are evident in services such as AT&T Smart Limits and T-Mobile's KidConnect which cut off text messaging once a monthly cap is reached. Any prepaid service offers such control.

In a few instances, families reported using unlimited texting plans that offer the service for a flat fee which is predictable each month. For example, Sprint offers unlimited messaging which can be added to any of their plans for $15/month. Most US cellular providers now offer unlimited calling and texting plans but are generally appropriate and economical only for those with the highest usage.

A final cost control for text messaging mentioned by some users was the use of free messaging services that can be found online. Services such as textmessage.cc and onlinetextmessage.com are examples. Such services allow users to send messages for free but in generally require the user to send the messages online versus through their cellular provider. The person receiving such messages on their phone then pay the typical fee.

Text messaging can be quick, convenient, and can certainly play an important role in keeping busy families in contact. How families control the costs of such service however is dependent upon their own needs and usage as well as their own creativity.

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