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Not sure how to deal with this...

Not sure how to deal with this. My 14-year-old son ran up $200 in charges on his cell phone by downloading games, music, and videos. He knew that these cost money and that we would eventually get the bill and find out about it. When we showed him the bill he said "Sorry" and didn't at all seemed concerned. We grounded him, took the phone away, and put a block on the phone so that he can't do it again. It's only the second day of grounding and he's whining and complaining, refusing to do the chores we have set out for him, and in some cases has said he has done a chore that he obviously has not. I also caught him checking messages on the cell in two instances. He gives us the impression that he's not at all concerned that we must pay this $200 and that we're ruining his life by grounding him and taking the phone away.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Last summer he ran up $200 in iTunes charges on his iPod. In that case, we sold the iPod to pay for the download charges. (He has since earned enough money and repurchased an iPod.) Then, about four months ago he ran up $250 in cell phone charges for text messaging. We gave him the benefit of the doubt on this one because he said that his friends told him that it didn't cost anything--they all have text messaging included on their plans--and nearly $200 came from incoming text messages and not ones he was sending. In this instance, we took the phone away from him until we could change our cell plan to include text messaging.

I just don't know what to do. Grounding him doesn't seem to be the right thing. And yet if he's not in the house then I want him to have his cell phone with him in case of an emergency or I need to get in touch with him. I'd like to make him do chores to pay off the bill, but once he gets the phone back he has no incentive to do those chores. (And he complains that weeding and washing the car are too difficult and refuses to do them. Yes, I know, we've spoiled him.)

What are reasonable consequences here? And how do you reach a kid who gives the impression that he just doesn't care about anything but his own instant gratification? (This kid who just brought me a milk shake that he made "just for me" and said he's sorry for the way he's acting but he can't help it. Sigh.)

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Most kids think that the things they want are "rights". However, we have made it very clear in our home that privileges are earned. If you pay the rent/mortage, pay the utilities, pay the food bill, pay for medical expenses, etc. etc. etc. then these are the true "rights" that they should expect. Everything else is a privilege which can be granted (for good behavior) or taken away (for bad behavior). You may choose to be nice and grant these privileges but you are in no way obligated to provide them. On the contrary, we as adults, must earn our privileges (vacations, cell phones, computers) right? What's to say that a child can't earn access to these things as well?

Anonymous said...

Kids have the right to own a cell phone after the age of 14 if they pay for it and I have the number. I actually bought my oldest daughter a cell phone but I wouldn't make that mistake again. Now she spends every penny she can get on phone cards.

Anonymous said...

My son, who is 10, thinks that computers are a right...but they are a privilege. During the school year he "earns" computer and electronic games time by doing his homework and making good grades. In the summer I relax the rules and allow him more time but intersperse it with reading and outdoor activities.

As for the cell phone - technically he has one - I travel a lot for work and it is easier for sitters if he has a phone so there are no long distance fees and I can call him whenever I want with no busy signals - BUT - he doesn't know the number of "his" cell phone so he can not give it out. It is simply a tool for me to contact him with. But he like to brag that he has own phone :)

Anonymous said...

We live in a world of technology and it’s going to keep growing at a rapid pace, all teenagers are curious. Once you have gotten over the argument of bill payment your teen will be fine, they may overindulge on the first bill or two but by confiscating the cell phone for a day or two will soon teach them the importance of money management. You will always know where they are and from the sound of their voice on the other end of the phone your mind will be put at ease.

Anonymous said...

I ran into a similar problem with my daughter. I used a cell phone contact that spelled out the rules of use as well as consequecnes for misuse.

judy said...

There are several things you can do: keep the phone until he can pay off his debt (this can be any acceptable method such as chores around the house, babysitting the neighborhood kids, mowing lawns, part-time job, etc), switch over to phone cards with a limited amount purchased by parents for you and any more minutes he must purchase, last resort they now have cell phones (disney or kajeet) that are VERY parent friendly that have limits on numbers used, texts, etc. Hope this helps!