This Teen Racked Up A $550 Phone Bill With Instagram, And Her Father Came Up With A Pretty Good Punishment For It

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iStock_000048193026_SmallDiscipline is one of the hardest parts of childrearing, for both the parent and the child. Kids don’t like being punished or told what to do, obviously, but maintaining rules and discipline is one of the most important parts of our job as parents. As much as we would probably like to just shrug our shoulders and let them run naked through the streets and eat ice cream and pizza for dinner every night, our main goal is to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted adults, and that means we sometimes have to punish our children.

Coming up with punishments can be difficult, though, because you want the kid to learn a lesson and not just spend a weekend loafing around thinking that you are a jerk without taking anything useful away from the experience. The best punishments are educational, logical, related to the transgression, and clearly communicated in a way that tells the children what is happening, why it is happening, and what specific actions will be required of them, so I was impressed to read about one parent’s way of dealing with his daughter’s outrageous cell phone bill. He came up with a pretty good punishment, as punishments go, and some of us might want to add it to our parenting toolbox for use in the future.

According to Yahoo Parenting, Jared Cramer’s 13-year-old daughter Julia spent so much time on Instagram that she ran up a $541.36 bill in one month from data charges on her cell phone. Those charges add up quickly, but Julia apparently knew how to track them well enough that she told her father about the impending bill before he received it.

“She thought after I got that bill it was going to be a slap on the wrist, don’t let it happen again situation,” Cramer said. But he wanted Julia to be more responsible and learn a lesson from her mistake, so he took all her designer clothes and toys and makeup and locked them away. He said she would have to earn it all back by doing chores around the house, and assigned a specific chore value to each item, which was labeled with a Post-It. Three chores would get her favorite shoes back, five chores would get a bundle of sweaters, etc. Julia still had access to her basic toiletries and a few outfits, because taking literally everything away from her would have been completely crazy, but if she wanted her cool, designer stuff, she’d have to earn it back.

Cramer said this plan made more sense to him than punishing his daughter by grounding her, because he thought making her earn all her privileges back would give her a lesson in accountability.

“I am simply just a hard-working dad with a middle-class income, trying to teach Julia the value of a dollar,” Cramer told Yahoo Parenting. “I put myself through college and now we are very blessed. She realizes the extra $500 could have been money put into her 529 [college account].”

Cramer was pretty nice about timing the punishment, too. He specifically arranged the chores so that if Julia were proactive about doing them, she would have more than enough time to get all her stuff back before school started. According to Cramer, Julia has jumped into the chores with a pretty good attitude and has been whipping through them to get all her stuff back as soon as possible.

I do feel for Julia, because I’ve been there. When I was her age, I racked up a $550 bill in one month on Prodigy. (My punishment was getting yelled at a whole lot.) Julia said she’s learned her lesson, and she’ll presumably keep a much sharper eye on her data usage from now on. Also, she’s presumably learned to always make sure her phone is connected through Wi-Fi, not the cellular network, because that’s how they get us.

Coming up with good, effective, logical punishments is hard, but worthwhile. If you have any good advice, sound off in the comments. I’ll take all the advice I can get.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/GettyImages/luanateutzi)