Thursday, May 24, 2007

Text Messaging revealed

If you have a teenager, a pre-teen, or even an elementary schooler, you need to educate yourself about text messaging. This relatively new phenomena has turned into a frenzy, and cellular service providers are raking in money hand over fist.

For the completely clueless parent, check out this Wikipedia article.

You really need to know about text messaging if you have not already built it into your plan. Even if you didn't ask for it, it is always enabled by default, every phone can utilize it, and you get charged for it whether you sent it or received it. Although most providers do (and I feel it is their legal obligation to) allow you to disable this feature from your plan, your kid probably isn't going to like that idea. Unlimited text messaging isn't cheap, it will run you around $10-$30 on top of your regular plan. If you can't say no to your kid, or use text messaging yourself on a family plan, this is a safer option than a message bundled plan that charges you the regular rate after 500, 1,000, 5,000, or however many texts the plan includes.

And yes, it is possible for a teenager to transmit 5,000 messages in a month. Both incoming and outgoing messages - yep, you pay for them and they come out of your bundle. A few friends texting back and forth on a daily basis can really rack up out of control charges. And the phone companies love it. The messages are short, pointless, and expensive. And when texting between 2 phones on the same provider? Yep, that company gets twice the buck for one message.

It's become a nickel-and-dime cash-cow for the providers. Just about everyone gets a text message they never asked for, usually from a wrong number or sometimes from spam. No one seems to be complaining, possibly because no one scrutinizes their bills like they should, and even then it isn't work spending 30 minutes on the phone with customer service trying to get a dollar credit. The result is over their millions of customers, providers are raking in millions in accidental and unsolicited messages.

Each message costs 15 cents, if not included in a plan. Any message above your bundle is charged 15 cents also. The only way to avoid this is the unlimited plan (but always check the find print to make sure 'unlimited' really means unlimited). Either way, you'll be happy to know that you're still getting ripped off no matter what. That's because texts are hugely marked up compared to other identical data, and separate from the regular data plan you would have to pay extra for also. Why? Because it's profitable of course. Imagine if your electric company decided to start charging you 5 times for electricity you use for your computer over any other appliance. See the problem?

You might be interested to know that texting also involves its own acronym language. You might need a Chat Translator to figure it all out. Unfortunately, reports are coming in from teachers that this new 'shorthand' is affecting their utilization of proper language.

Educators are taking notice. You need to take notice, because whether its a $500 unexpected phone bill or a teen who turns in an essay titled "Grg Wshngtn i thk hs gr8", a nice chunk of money is coming out of your pocket and into a utility bill.

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