Tweens and Cell Phones – The Phone Shaming Curse

Picture of an older cell phone“I pulled out my phone on the bus to text you, mom, and everyone laughed at me.”

“Who’s everyone, hon?”

“I don’t know. Kids. Even fifth graders on our bus have smart phones.”

“I am sure not all 5th graders have smart phones.”

“They do to, mom.”

“Yeah, I know a kid in my grade that has a Samsung Galaxy S5!” his younger brother added.

“In 4th grade? Who does he call?” I wanted to know.

“I don’t know. But he has lots of cool apps.”

“You guys have lots of cool apps on the devices you already have. Why do you need…it’s not like you call anyone!” I sputtered. I don’t think my middle son had called anyone in months. His phone had been lost somewhere in the house (it turned up in his younger brother’s room in a box of Lego’s on the floor next to the bookcase only just recently).

“I call people, mom,” my oldest chimed in.”

“I know you do, hon. And you have a phone.”

“When do you think I can get a smart phone? Some iPhones are only one dollar!”

“We saw them for one cent at Staples!” my middle son reminded me.

“I’m really not worried about the cost of the device,” I told them. “It’s the ongoing cost of the data plan. It’s the commitment for two years. How do you think we should rearrange our budget to accommodate the ongoing additional cost?”


“How come so-and-so has a smart phone, then?”

“Yeah, and so-and-so?”

“And how about so-and-so, and…?”

And so-and-so on. They all had examples of friends who have smart phones; my older two had far more, given that they’re in 8th and 9th grade. According to my oldest, he’s “like the only kid in his whole school who doesn’t have a smart phone.”

“Well, boys, first, I have no idea why all those people have smart phones. I do not know what priorities drive their families’ budget decisions. And second, you’d have to show a need for a phone and not just the want of a cool new device. You, not so much,” I said, touching my oldest’s arm. “But you,” I looked at my middle son. “You need to answer me when I call or text you. You need to check in with me when you go somewhere and your plans change.”

“Okay, mom. I can do that.”

“And you,” I looked at my youngest. “I’m just not sure you’re ready for a smart phone yet.” What I didn’t say (because he doesn’t need me to remind him) is that he’d need to improve his keeping-track-of-things-skills.

“Yeah, I’d just be happy with a plain phone,” he agreed.

“Hey, I have an idea about the budget reallocation,” I said to all of them. “Maybe you can start taking your lunches to school every day rather than buying them?”


“Maybe you guys can even make them yourselves like your brother does!” I said to my older two.

More silence.

The conversation ended as I left them to ponder my offer. Many weeks have passed and now, every time either of the older two brings up something about a phone, all I have to say is “school lunch.” Apparently it’s a lot to consider: maybe the idea of making and bringing their own lunches is more daunting than withstanding the phone shame that they supposedly do.


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Caroline Poser

Author, columnist, blogger at
Married mom of three teen boys, Caroline Poser has been writing inspirational and sometimes funny stories about her kids for the last 18+ years -- one cup of coffee at a time!

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Caroline Poser

Married mom of three teen boys, Caroline Poser has been writing inspirational and sometimes funny stories about her kids for the last 18+ years -- one cup of coffee at a time!

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