Setting limits with data and beyond

Ever feel like you spend half your time managing other family members’ behaviour, especially when it has to do with technology?

Up until recently, every month, as the days drew closer to the end of our cell phone and internet billing cycle, I waited for the alert letting me know that we had collectively used 90% of our plan and that we would soon be charged for overage. Then, I immediately passed on that alert to all family members – two pretty much grown up kids and my hubby, requesting their co operation at not exceeding the limit. Depending on how many days were remaining or what was going on in their lives (a school project that required lots of internet research, time away from Wi-Fi or having to watch the latest episode of their Netflix series), we were either successful at not having to pay an additional fee, or sometimes, the fee was much higher than anticipated.

I knew that I was not alone because setting limits around internet and phone data usage is something that many parents discuss with me in our counselling sessions. I personally struggled, as do the parents I meet, with just doing what the kids had asked me to do for a long time – that is, to get a plan with unlimited data – versus sticking to what we had. I was reluctant to remove any limits on use – especially because I believe that learning to live within limits is an important life skill and secondly, because taking on an unlimited plan for internet alone meant that we were going to be paying an additional $30 dollars a month.

On the other hand, taking on the unlimited package meant that I could turn my focus to other more important matters, stop nagging and supervising their internet use, and I could relax more. Also, because the cost of the unlimited is a known cost every month (as opposed to the unknown cost of going over what the plan allows), I could budget accordingly.

Upon sharing my dilemma with hubby and the kids, there were a couple of suggestions offered. Older daughter (who works full time), suggested that everyone contribute financially to make up the difference or that she and her sister divide it between them since they are typically the bigger consumers. Younger daughter, in high school and unemployed, was not happy with this idea, even though she agreed that it sounded fair.

Another suggestion was to divide the cell phone gigabytes between the four of us (we figured our kids could have more because we used less), and then to penalize anyone that went over their limit at the same rate that the phone company charges us.

In the end, we concluded that to change plans for both internet and mobile phone usage was not in the cards. We ultimately changed our internet usage to unlimited so that I no longer have to monitor how many Netflix shows they’re watching (and we certainly take advantage of this too), and compromised by getting rid of some of our rarely watched channels so that we are only paying nominally more each month.

I was glad that we were at least continuing with our current cell phone plan, because of the benefit of learning to live within limits and besides, our plan offers us lots of room to text and talk and roam the internet.

Its amazing how much time and effort go into figuring out all these plans and costs, in addition to taking into consideration the life lessons learnt along the way, but isn’t that what it’s all about… working as a family, compromising and figuring out a solution that works for everyone.

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