How to reduce data usage on a family plan

Ari Howard

Dec 20, 2020 — 4 min read

Never pay another overage fee again.

Mother and children on couch with their phones

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A family plan is a great way to save money on your phone bill but it can also be incredibly frustrating when it comes to sharing data. It is not uncommon that on a family plan, a couple of people — often the children — use a disproportionate amount of the data each month. This can lead to expensive overage fees or slowed internet speeds. Here’s how to reduce data usage on a family plan, avoid overage fees each month and to have more say over your children’s screen time. 

Go to Settings on your child’s iPhone

The screentime feature in the settings app is a great way to control your children’s data use. Through the Screen Time feature on your child’s phone, you can set times of the day where your child cannot access specified apps (Downtime), set a limit for how much time each day your child can be on those apps (App Limits), limit communication to specific contacts each day (Communication Limits) or even block inappropriate content (Content and Privacy Restrictions). This feature is also a great tool for yourself if you want to limit your data usage or screen time in general. 

Here’s how to enforce downtime periods on your child’s smartphone:

  1. Open Settings on your child’s phone 
  2. Select Screen Time
  3. Click Downtime, turn the feature on and specify what time of the day you want your child away from his/her screen
  4. Return to Screen Time 
  5. Select Always Allowed to choose the apps you want your child to always have access to, such as the Phone app or Google Maps 
  6. Return to Screen Time once more 
  7. Select Use Screen Time Passcode to secure Screen Time settings on your child’s phone 

Try an app 

Datally (for Androids)

Android phone owners can download the Datally app in order to monitor and control data usage. Through the app, you have access to information on what apps are using most of your monthly data and keep track of how much data you have left for the month. If you are using more data than you would like, you can set daily limits for each app on your phone to slow data consumption. This is a great app for your children to download as well so that they are cognizant of how much data they are consuming with their favorite apps. 

  • Cost: Free
  • Free trial: N/A

My Data Manager (for iPhones)

My Data Manager is a data tracking app designed for IOS users. Just like Datally, My Data Manager allows you to track your overall data usage and each of your apps’ data usage throughout the month. Once you know which apps are eating up your data, you can enforce daily data limits for those apps. Unlike Datally, My Data Manager also offers a shared data control feature so that you can keep track of how much data everyone on your family plan is using each month. 

  • Cost: Free
  • Free trial: N/A

AT&T Secure Family 

AT&T offers the Secure Family app for anyone with a family cellphone plan, including non-AT&T customers. Through the app, you can set data blocks, pause and resume internet access and restrict times for data use for anyone in the family. Although the app costs $7.99/mo., it likely will still save you money if you are currently paying overage fees most months. For instance, with AT&T, you spend a minimum of $15/mo. when you and your family surpass your monthly data limit.

  • Cost: $7.99/mo.
  • Free trial: 30 days

T-Mobile FamilyMode app 

The T-Mobile FamilyMode app is specifically for T-Mobile customers and costs $10/mo. The app allows you to monitor all devices’ screen time, set screen time limits for any device and control at which times family members can go online or even use a specific app. 

Since T-Mobile removed data overage fees, this app is probably geared more towards parents who want to be able to have control over when and how often their children are on the internet and less towards parents who simply want to control monthly data usage so they don’t go over their limit. For parents who want full control over their children’s screen time, they might want to get both Family Mode and Home Base for a total of $20/mo. With Home Base, you have control of all devices connected to your home Wi-Fi. 

  • Cost: $10/mo.
  • Free trial: None

Verizon Smart Family 

Verizon Smart Family is an app that allows Verizon Wireless customers to track and control their family’s data usage, as well as view their children’s online activity, manage their calls and texts and block content. The basic version of the app costs $4.99/mo., but for an additional $5/mo. Verizon customers can also gain access to location tracking for all devices on their plan. The premium version of the app is best for parents who want an all-encompassing way of keeping track of their children. For those who simply want to monitor data usage, the free My Verizon app is probably sufficient. 

  • Cost: $4.99/mo. or $9.99/mo. for premium
  • Free trial: 30 days
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Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Shannon Ullman

Edited by:

Shannon Ullman

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

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