St. Louis (KSDK) -- Kids can easily go over cell phone data limits and parents can often be surprised. But the Better Business Bureau says there are easy steps you can take to keep those monthly bills down.
In 2011, the BBB received 38,420 complaints against cellular telephone services and equipment, making it the number one complaint category in the BBB system. While many of those complaints were due to data billing issues, there are ways to prevent this and the cell phone carriers are willing to work with consumers to monitor and, in some cases, lower their bills.
"By being proactive, and aware of the data activity in which your child engages, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on your next cell phone bill," said Rod Davis, senior vice president of enterprise programs for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. "The cell phone industry has put together different data plans and restrictions that parents may want to consider if their child has a persistent problem of going over their data limit."
BBB has put together a compilation of the major cell phone carriers' data plans and packages:
For AT&T users, parents should consider Smart Limits of Wireless, an online parental controls tool. 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.
For MetroPCS users, parents can use the free "Purchase Blocker" that prevents mobile purchases. MetroPCS also has a special account called MetroConnect. This account 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.
For Sprint users, parents can take advantage of Sprint Mobile Controls. 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 -during dinner, school or late at night.
For U.S. Cellular users, parents can utilize the My Account tool to oversee their child's data usage. The My Acount tool allows parents to receive text message alerts when their data usage is close to the limit, as well as block data to a specific handset.
For Verizon users, parents can set up and manage Usage Controls through their My Verizon account. Through the My Verizon Usage Controls, customers can keep a tight rein on their accounts' usage. 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. They'll receive free text message alerts when limits are nearing and when they are reached. Once the allowance is reached, there is also an option to restrict usage.
For more information pertaining to your individual cell phone carrier, BBB recommends contacting them directly to see what data overage protection plans can be applied to your personal account. For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
NOTE: T-Mobile did not respond to BBB's request for information.