Parents looking to for a way to to curtail pricey cell phone bills incurred by their children have a new weapon in their arsenal if they use service from AT&T Wireless. The cellular provider announced a new system Tuesday that allows parents to set limits on their children’s cell phone usage, including voice, texting, and web browsing.
Smart Limits for Wireless service is a web-based interface that lets parents control detailed aspects of their children’s cell phone plans, including service for Apple’s
iPhone. The service costs $4.99 a month per line; besides the iPhone, it’s compatible with any AT&T GSM or 3G handset as well as any non-prepaid AT&T cell phone plan.
Users can set limits on how many minutes children can use and what time of day and days of the week the phone can be used, as well as blocking calls and text messages from specific telephone numbers. Callers covered by the service will get warnings when they approach the limits; service will be restricted once those limits are hit. Certain numbers can be set as Allowed Numbers, which exempts them from those restrictions and emergency numbers can be dialed, regardless of limits.
The service isn’t without its own limitations, however—including an iPhone-specific limitation. iPhone users cannot use Smart Limits’ Internet-filtering features because that capability won’t work with the iPhone’s Safari browser.
Other limitations to the service involve call blocking—that feature relies on on Caller ID, which is not always available, so some valid calls may not get through, and some calls which should be blocked won’t be. Also, the system cannot restrict Wi-Fi access, and while text messaging is controllable, sending and receiving picture and video messages is not.
The Smart Limits for Wireless system is part of a larger Smart Limits initiative that AT&T is deploying on all of its services, including landlines and broadband Internet.