verizon made me smarter than my teen

This is one of the most valuable tools I have found as the parent of a cell phone wielding kid.

We have a “no phones after 10:00 p.m. rule” in our house. Which is why my husband goes to bed at 9:45 p.m. sharp. Every. Single. Night. 

I recently tweeted:

Bear Meat

And then? I walked the dreaded 16 steps down to the kids’ rooms. Yes. I’ve counted. It’s what I do to prepare myself. I approached the first room and lightly knocked, got the usual grunt, entered and said as I approached his bed in a fake cheerful voice that dripped in fear, “It’s 10:00. I need your phone sweetie.”

What happened next was something I knew would happen someday but I was still completely unprepared. My over six feet tall son said, “I’m not giving it to you. This is a stupid rule. All my friends get to keep their phones,” and he held the phone out of my reach.

I stood there for a few seconds stunned, face turning red and feeling something utterly disgusting. I felt powerless. What was I going to do? He was physically holding the phone out of my reach and he looked determined.

Then, like remembering the room mom’s name just before Her Cheeriness approaches you surrounded by her posse of judgmental do-gooders, I had an epiphany that empowered. “Give me the phone,” I said, “or I will go online right now and suspend your service.” That should do it.

“Go ahead,” he said. How very rational. 

“Ok,” I said and stomped up the stairs to log on to Verizon and suspend his social lifeline. As I was punching in my account number and password it occurred to me, If I suspend this phone, I will suffer too.

I need to be able to reach him. Often. I am running late, a practice has been cancelled, he is staying at a friend’s, etc. And then there, on the Verizon page, I spotted something so amazing I could barely catch my breath.

PARENTS HERE THIS: You can suspend your kid’s cell phone accounts for certain amounts of time each day. It isn’t a dream. I really just said that. And it’s TRUE.

It’s called Usage Controls. It should be called The Greatest Thing to Happen to Parents of Teens Since Wine, but I don’t fault Verizon for their lack of creativity.

It is incredibly simple. I should tell you it costs $4.99 per month. Worth every penny.

Log into your account. 

Type Usage Controls in the Search Bar. You will see this. 

Verizon Usage Controls

Then follow the instructions.

You will see this box where you can click the hours of suspension. (A frightening witch like cackle escaped my lips with every click of the box.)

Verizon Usage Restrictions

So that they are not completely cut off from the world in case of emergencies, Verizon allows you to add “Trusted Numbers” that they can reach during suspended hours. They can always dial 911. 

Verizon Trusted Numbers

Both of my kids’ phones now automatically stop working from the hours of 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. The moral of the story? They may grow bigger than you, but they will never grow smarter.



  1. Caralyn Glass says

    This? This is GENIUS. My seven-year-old has already started asking for a phone (absolUTEly not!) but I sure hope Sprint has a comparable service. otherwise I might really be tempted to switch!

  2. heather mcconnaughy says

    My oldest daughter is 13. She hands her phone over at 7pm and can’t have it back until 7am. At first she was all upset about it. Now she doesn’t complain.

    She is allowed to text her friends during the week but can only talk on weekends. Weekends are not exempt from the restricted hours. Though I will make some exceptions if her friend who lives in Virginia calls or texts her.

    She’s been "grounded" from her phone for abusing her privileges, she let a friend use it when the friend’s mom wouldn’t let her call who she wanted. I was surprised that after one protest of I didn’t know it wasn’t ok this isn’t fair, she handed over the phone and hasn’t complained once.

    It’s been a week and I think she may have learned her lesson.

  3. Laura Neiman says

    Here’s the thing. Your son will probably realize this about the time my daughter did. We have Smart Limits too, with AT&T, and my daughter can’t make calls after ten pm. However, people can call HER all they want! So right around 9:50, she texts her friends to call her. Lame, lame, lame.

  4. says

    You’re brilliant lady. LMBO. Fortunately I don’t have that problem. I don’t have a cell and none of my children have one until they can work and pay for their own. Wish I had one though, but it’s simply one of those things we can’t afford. We’re primitive that way. But this cracks me up.

  5. Sandra Cumo-mapes says

    Thank you for the advice! I loved the blog. I got my daughter a cellphone at age 9 because she could call me or my ex husband. Also I travel a lot for work so I can also communicate with her and my son. I will sit down my husband and ex husband and think a way how to turn off her phone past 10.

  6. Jordan says

    This is terrible!!! I’m a 20 year old sophomore in college living on my own and luckily my parents have never done this to me. What happened to teaching your children to be responsible for themselves? All you are doing is preventing them from making their own decisions. It’s a phone. If they want to stay up and text then they can learn what it feels like to be tired the next day. If you are worried about not being able to monitor the texts your kid sends (which is in my opinion one of the worst ways to disrespect privacy) think about the fact that someday you wont be able to watch their every move. Let them have some small part of freedom now so that they can grow.

    • jarchitect says

      Jordan: You are absolutely correct…if they pay for the service. If the child/young adult payed for the privilege of having a phone and the monthly expense of operating it, then no one would be ‘disrespecting their privacy” by discontinuing a service they are getting for free from Mom and Dad. Trust me, you will sing a different tune when you are a parent.

  7. Lisa says

    I also use this feature and it is nice…. BUT there is a loophole. They are still able to use their APPS and browser (safari). So, they can still chat with their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat….etc. So it doesnt solve the problem completely–( this is if they have a Wi-Fi connection. If they have to use their 3G then it will not work)…. Make sense.?

    • Sue says

      Very true Lisa. As long as they have access to wi-fi, they can pretty much do everything. My son doesn’t use the phone to talk, so limiting that does nothing. I used the restrictions, but while at home and at school he could still use it when connected to wi-fi. It’s very frustrating as a parent to not be able to have more control over their usage. I finally just had to suspend the phone completely. It will be suspended (except for being able to call 911) for up to 90 days or when I decide to reactivate it. We’ll see if this works. Desparate times call for desparate measures.

  8. Jan says

    OMG I actually love you. I related to everything you wrote (including the wicked cackle). Taking the phone away or turning it off from my 16 year old daughter is like taking my life in my hands. I am SO excited and signed up for this immediately.

  9. Nancy says

    Am I wrong in thinking you cannot set usage controls for the data? I completely suspended my 14 y/o’s phone because I don’t want him to have access to the data period (unless he has access to wifi). I cut his data to the minimum they will allow but I want to completely shut it off so he can’t use any of the other apps like kik, instagram, facebook, etc… Any ideas!!!

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