Saving the World One Teen at a Time - Column on Parenting Tweens and Teens

Teen Text Trauma.

by Abby Margolis Newman


Last week, I had a wake-up call, a bucket of cold water in my face courtesy of AT&T: I found out that my middle son, age 14, had racked up 847 text messages in less than two weeks of cell phone usage. Even more stunning, my husband told me later that the vast majority of the texting was between Aaron and girls--well, mostly, one specific girl. A girlfriend or just a friend? He's not saying.


Let me back up a bit. Until a few weeks ago, our family was one of a rare species: a house with two teenagers and zero texting. We were trapped in a multi-year plan with Verizon and texting was simply not a part of the package. My two older boys have both had cell phones since they started middle school a few years ago, but they were to be utilized in rare cases; so yes, they had the phones, but they weren't supposed to actually use them.


My oldest son, Jonah, is a sophomore in high school, and Aaron is a freshman. Jonah, while anal-compulsive and uber-responsible about schoolwork, is completely inept when it comes to taking care of a cell phone. He has broken two phones playing baseball (useful tip: do not slide into a base with a phone in your pocket) and left three phones in his pants only to go through the washing machine. Our solution was to make him pay for his own phone, and to order the cheapest and crappiest model Verizon offered. This hideous, puke-green article has been a total embarrassment to Jonah and an internal family joke.


Aaron, on the other hand, has not lost, broken, or washed a single phone in the past three years. So when we were finally released this winter from the bondage of Verizon and switched over to AT&T, we gave Aaron a new phone for Hanukkah. With texting. Let me amend that: with 200 texts per month, which I (naively) assumed would be plenty. I thought, how many texts could a kid send in one day?


Thirteen days later, I got a generic email message from AT&T, which informed me that I could check our "family plan" minutes any time I wanted. Normally, I delete these messages and move on, but something made me click on the link. Here was the shocking news: Aaron's phone number showed that his actual usage included 847 text messages.


I called AT&T immediately. "There must be some mistake," I said to the customer service representative, my fake indignation barely concealing my panic. "There is no way he could have sent 847 text messages in less than two weeks."


The AT&T rep, who had one of those soothing types of upperclass British accents, asked gently, "First, did you know that your account is charged whether you send or receive a text?" I said, truthfully, that I had no idea. Trying to be tactful, he asked, "Is this second line on your phone used by a teenager, by chance?" "Aaron!" I yelled, forgetting to cover the mouthpiece of the phone (sorry, British guy).


10k texts a month?! I would take their phones away.


Oh boy, my two girls rack up about 10K texts a month. Isn't that absolutely rediculous. And that is with the time limits I set with AT&T SmartLimits. I think texting and IMing are totally ruining communication skills. Yep, the unlimited is the way to go. Especially since you will get charged even when someone texts you. You can't control that.


I love this. My daughter was the first to text in our family - she picked the plan (the cheapest one since she was paying) and fortunately stuck with it. It wasn't until my son wanted to be added on that we went to unlimited texting (they were to split the cost of the plan). Now my husband and I probably text as much as they do.

I'm really glad I had the unlimited plan when my daughter recently lost her phone. Some kid found it and proceeded to rack up over 150 texts in one day before I could suspend the service on the phone. When I saw the numbers I turned the list in to the school officer and within 30 minutes he had the perpetrator. What he didn't realize, and I am glad of in this case, is that everything you do on a phone is traceable. I hope he got a good whipping from his dad.

Thanks for sharing your experience and look forward to reading more of your articles.


This is when I am really grateful that my best friend's kids are older. We had this discussion on New Year's Day after one kept falling over teenagers texting each other across the room at my friend's annual NYE party. I mentioned that I kept laughing at them and that I hoped their parents had gotten the unlimited texting package to go with the new phones. She started laughing and said probably not but that she was glad that I was aware of the issue since I am not tech savvy. My comment was I agree - I am not and only send about 10 texts a month however I could do the math and we had unlimited texting on our plan since everybody sends us texts.


When our texting became an issue under our plan, I was up in arms and ready to take it out on the teen - until, gulp, it was my line that was way over the limit. Oops. Unlimited texting was quietly put in place in our household.


Ugh. We got our 13-year old a phone for Xmas. She was the last of her friends to get one. Some of her friends' parents don't even have one and they do. I don't think she has made a single call other than receiving calls from me. She just texts. Maybe if I had a decent phone, I'd get it, but I don't YET. Waiting for my upgrade.



This makes me laugh. The first month Leslie had texting she acquired 1300 texts in one calendar month - two of the days were Jewish holidays and there was texting during YK services. When David got texting it wasn't until there was a girl that there were more than the allotted 200 texts, now he has unlimited. Last week I received my courtesy call from Verizon informing me that the $30 I pay for my kids texting qualifies me for the "select" plan giving us all unlimited texting. I used my upgrade for a QWERTY keyboard phone (I've never used an upgrade for my own phone) and have started to learn how to text. David, too, has gone through multiple phones. We have a "punishment" phone for when he breaks one (e.g. jumps into the pool with a phone in his pocket) and he must use it until an upgrade is available. He, too, pays us $10 bucks a month for texting....when we remember to collect it.

Oh, and the British guy...he was probably in Mumbai.