How to Manage Your Child’s Data Usage

by Anna Hughes on 28/02/2018
Kids love data, but parents don't love paying for it. When it comes to your child's data usage, you probably wish they'd dial it back a bit or perhaps have even considered cutting them off. But don't despair: Managing data usage is far less complicated than it might sometimes feel.
Family using phones and tablets

Family plans sometimes see too much use.

Explain The Problem

As any parent quickly learns, many family plans, even “unlimited” plans, have data limits. Some, once you hit a certain threshold, simply cut off your data. Others will charge you for the “overage” on data. And still others will “throttle” you beyond a certain point, which means your data use will be given less priority and thus slowed down. Keep in mind that if you have WiFi in your home, your phones should all be configured to prioritize using that connection.

Communication is the key. So, sit your children down, explain to them how mobile plans work, and then explain the situation. There may be a compromise already on the table; some kids will happily give up their allowance to keep talking with their friends, for example. Others, you’ll have to work out a plan and a schedule.

Which Apps?

Next, look at the apps they’re using. Some culprits are obvious; if you’re using Netflix or podcast streaming apps everywhere you go, that’s going to eat into data quickly. But keep in mind that there are plenty of apps that seem like they shouldn’t be using data and yet are shocking data hogs. Many mobile games, for example, correspond directly with servers from the game company, and they likely won’t tell you that they’re doing this directly. Other apps are “web apps,” essentially just a website link configured to run more elegantly on your phone, and thus burn through data. So start any data management plan by inventorying the apps your children us, and how much data they eat up.

Child on phone

Hope she’s on WiFi!

What’s Useful?

That said, there are noble uses for data. For example, if you’ve got a budding astronomer on your hands, it’s a little hard to tell them not to use their favorite constellation app. The same is true of apps and web tasks that might be useful for schoolwork, such as checking Wikipedia, watching educational or instructional videos, or listening to school lectures or supplemental material via podcast. These, of course, deserve priority; knowledge is the finest use of smartphones.

What Are The Limits?

But there should also be limits. Kids shouldn’t spend every last minute playing games on their iPhones and tablets, and iPhone parental controls can see that they don’t. So, set some hard times where the phone gets put away, such as bedtime, meal times, school times, or times they need to use their phones exclusively for homework. If you’re concerned about kids trying to get around the rules, you can simply install a parental control app that locks down certain functions, or even the entire phone, either at your command or at set times during the day. And, of course, don’t forget the most fundamental punishment a parent can deploy: Taking the phone away.

Data doesn’t have to vanish before you even get the bill. With clear communication, rules, and boundaries, everyone can share a plan. Parental control apps like Screen Time can make this easier. Try it for free.

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