Broken Cell Phone - Who Is Responsible?

Updated on April 09, 2019
T.M. asks from Tampa, FL
17 answers

My daughter is 11 and I got her an IPhone 6s for Christmas. She was at her after school program today with the phone stored in her backpack. Her backpack was on the floor where they tell everyone to put their bags. Another child felt it funny to walk down the line of bags and kick multiple backpacks. The screen on my daughter’s phone was cracked badly.

My daughter was not negligent in handling her phone... This was not an accident but a willful act on the part of the other child. At this point, I believe that the parent of the other child is responsible for the damage. I have written a letter to the parent to be given by the after school program and contacted the Principal of the school.

How would you handle?

ETA: it is not hearsay...there were other kids and a teacher that saw this child kicking my daughter’s backpack. It absolutely was not an accident. There actually was a case and a screen protector on the phone and it still cracked. I wrote the letter at the request of the after-school program director.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Write an apology letter to the other parent for her child being a destructive little brat? Nope - not happening. Yes - I absolutely do monitor the use of the phone.

UPDATE: I took the phone to the Apple store and had the screen replaced. Once the screen was replaced, the phone no longer worked so they exchanged it for a new phone since it was still under factory warranty. The cost was $160. I also replaced the case and screen protector with a heavier duty version.

No, I didn’t take my daughter’s word on of the teachers saw the incident as well as a number of the other kids. This was not an accident all all...the other kid was being intentional destructive. It doesn’t matter if the kid didn’t make a conscious decision to break a phone...she was kicking things that didn’t belong to her and DID damage the phone. The parent is a real piece of work and has cursed out the director of the after school program over this. When you teach a child that’s it’s ok to destroy something and take no responsibility, you are raising a future adult to be the same way. The parent is a jerk and I don’t expect to see her help with this at all. It’s going to be funny one day when something like this happens to her SHE would expect the other child’s parent to pay.

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answers from Anchorage on

It sounds like you are handling it just right. But I wouldn't expect them to buy a brand new phone, a cracked screen can be replaced, mine cost me about $80 bucks to get replaced.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

The afterschool program should be responsible. They are supposed to watch the kids so if she was able to walk on backpacks and kick them then aftercare should be at fault. I hated when my daughter went to after care and the backpacks were all lined up on the floor. This was a fear I had that something would be damaged from another kid walking on backpacks. Good luck

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Springfield on

My 12 year old has an iPhone 6, and I would be furious if anything like this happened. Of course you are upset. Who wouldn't be?

I don't understand why the director would ask you to write a letter to the parent. That really bothers me. Was this after explaining that the program is not responsible for student items and to possibly just give you a "solution" and try to get you off her/his back? I wouldn't be surprised if the program did have that policy, as it can be very difficult to control what kids might bring. Still, the child that kicked the backpacks should have been stopped almost immediately. Did that happen and it's just unfortunate that your daughter's backpack was kicked right away?

Honestly, I'm the parent that would just walk away and not try to get someone else to pay for it. My philosophy is these things happen and my kid could be the one to blame next time.

A couple of things to think about:

You mentioned the phone has a screen protector. Is this one of those that's guaranteed for life? Does that company pay for a new screen if the screen gets damaged?

Does the phone still work? If the phone still works, you could look into just getting the screen replaced. I had to do that one time on my husband's android. I took it to a mobile repair shop, and it was a little over $100 (I think ... it was a couple of years ago). That shop also buys and sells phone, and buying a phone from them would have been cheaper than buying a new phone.

If the phone doesn't work, did you happen to pay for insurance? We have Verizon, and with insurance I believe you pay $150 for a refurbished phone.

I know those numbers feel high, but they really aren't compared to the price of a new phone.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'd be pissed off too. and yeah, i think it's worth at least taking a crack at getting the parents of the other kid to indemnify you for the damage to your daughter's phone.

i'd also be prepared for the simple fact that pursuing it might well end up being way more stressful and aggravating than it's worth.

it wasn't an accident, and the other kid was a jerk.

each situation and person has to determine how much it's worth to pursue a situation when you're *right*, and when to let it go because it's making you crazy.

the world is full of jerks. sometimes they have to pay for their jerkitude, and sometimes it's on us to take a deep breath and move past 'em.

i hope this resolves happily.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

What is an 11 yr old doing with an Iphone anyways? Expensive things get broken - that is what insurance is for.

If it was my kid that was "kicking the backpacks" and I got that note from a parent, not even kidding I'd rip it up and laugh. How could you EVER prove that it was broken during that incident.

Oh, and welcome to the world of being "that parent." I bet your daughter is going to have an amazing time with those kids the rest of the year when they found out her mommy wrote a note because her cell phone got broken.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

How did you find out that the other child did this? From a teacher or person in charge? Or from your daughter?

I would never write directly to another parent about something that occurred on school property when I didn't witness it (or even when I did). I'd go through the school personnel supervising. I can't imagine any school employee being permitted to pass a letter from one parent to another. Our teachers don't even get involved in social things (such as distributing birthday party invitations or anything else). It's up to the school to figure out what they did wrong, if anything, and what the kid(s) did wrong, if anything, and whether the kid was something other than "willful" which implies a premeditated action to cause harm of some sort. Without that info, it's impossible to advise you.

Even good kids relate events differently or with info added in by their friends, so I'm wondering if she saw the whole thing and on what basis she is claiming the kid "felt it funny" to kick the bags. I also don't know how you would prove that the phone wasn't cracked beforehand.

I'd also get insurance on any phone used by a kid or teen. And I'd get her one of those wallet-style things that protects the phone. Anything could have happened - someone (including your daughter) could have tripped, a wayward basketball could have been thrown, a school bus driver could have taken a turn a little sharply or swerved to avoid a dog, and the same thing could have happened.

So go through the program and/or principal and ask how things are handled. Listen first, take action second.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

From a legal perspective? I don’t think you’d ever win this one.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

You gave an eleven year old child a smartphone, and then sent her to school and an after-school program with other young children. Kids who are pre-teens and younger are often irresponsible and rambunctious.

Probably your daughter was not negligent in the way she handled her phone. However, I feel that you were negligent in providing such an expensive and advanced electronic device and allowing her to have it at school. Damage is just one of the hazards - theft, misuse, another kid accessing dangerous websites, etc, are all very likely possibilities.

If you really want your daughter to have a smartphone, get her one for use in your home with your supervision. If you feel that your daughter must have a phone for school (to text you in an emergency, or alert you that team practice is going later than expected), then get her a cheap no-frills phone that can make and receive calls - and that's all.

The lesson to be learned here is not on your daughter, but on you. You don't supply young kids with fancy electronics and then send the kid and the phone to a place with other young kids.

I hope you're monitoring your daughter's online presence, that you know all her passwords and history, by the way.

And I'd write a note of apology to the other parent, and to the principal too. And I'd go to Walmart and buy one of those super-cheap phones. And I'd apologize to your daughter for not making a responsible decision about electronics.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Well the school certainly isn't responsible for expensive items that children bring on campus, and I really doubt that they will want to get involved at all. I'm actually surprised that the after school program is willing to act as your go between. If you have some evidence of this kid purposely destroying your daughter's property I suppose you could present that evidence to the parents of the child directly, and hopefully they will do the right thing.
But honestly backpacks in a hallway get banged up and trampled all the time, you're pretty naive to assume something so expensive and fragile wouldn't be at risk in an 11 year old's backpack, no matter how careful and responsible she is, these are KIDS!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Who saw the other kid do this?
Was there more than one witness?
Did an adult see it happen?

If no one else but your daughter saw anything I'd take her story with a grain of salt.
Because if any 11 yr old had an accident with an expensive object it might be easier to explain things by blaming someone else.

No one knows if the phone was broken beforehand or not.
Depending on where in the bag it was - just dropping the bag on the floor might have busted it.
Do you have it in a protective case/cover for it?

How would you feel if you got a letter from anyone wanting you to replace their phone?
You'd want proof that your kid did it - and short of video surveillance its pretty impossible to prove.

Contrary to what anyone else says - not everyone has a smart phone.
For making calls and texting a basic phone is fine and much less expensive.
We didn't get smart phones for the family until our son graduated high school - he uses it a lot in college.
His is in a waterproof case - and it's saved it more than once because stuff happens and it's been dropped into puddles by accident.
Even if you have the most responsible kid in the world - their friends are not always that mature and accidents happen even under the best circumstances.

Sorry but it's going to be up to you to replace it.
Be sure you get it insured so you are prepared in case anything happens again.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Ugh. That really sucks. I would also try to hold the child kicking the bag responsible, but you don't know their financial situation or home life and you have to be practical and realize that you most likely will not get any payment from them. If one kicks someone's bag and breaks something expensive then that is your fault -- and this child needs to learn this. How do you go about doing that though since this is not your child. Good luck with how you try to deal with this. Also, whatever phone your kid gets next, you might want to spend the money on an otterbox case or something comparable that will give supreme protection.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I do think you should contact the program as you did...but it doesn't exactly sound willful in the intent to break the phone. It sounds like this kid was angry or acting out but didn't necessarily set out to specifically break your daughter's phone, but rather the phone was a casualty in the process.

Before contacting the other parent I would speak with the director of the program and possibly the principal and go from there.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

If the child had walked on the backpack and broken a keychain off of it or damaged the backpack I think most people would agree the child's parents are responsible for damaging your daughter's property. She had no business walking on backpacks. She could have had a show-and-tell thing in there and broke a beloved toy, etc..and I think most people would have found fault for that, but for some reason parents are judging you for giving your daughter such an expensive item when actually it's quite common these days, we need to be able to keep in touch with our kids, and that means giving 9 year old cell phones may be in 20 years it'll be common place for 5 year olds to have cell phones times they are changing. I think that screen replacement kits aren't terribly expensive and if you approach the parents in a non-confrontational way they probably would be willing to let their child take responsibility for her actions and help you get it replaced. I would hold my child accountable if she was walking on people's backpacks.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would not have written that letter or contacted the principal.

You know hear say and that’s not fact,

I’m sorry but this is on you. Accidents happen. The phone could have been accidentally broken when she put the backpack down, if she had the phone out when she wasn’t supposed to and it got broken, etc. You are hearing her story.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I’d chalk it up as a bad idea to give an 11 yr old such a phone in the first place. But you could ask the other child’s parent to make it right. Wouldn’t hurt I guess.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

You should have insurance on your 11 year old child’s new iPhone. Phone crack is no big deal.

You assume risk letting her take this gadget to school in the first place.

It’s not like this kid picked up the phone itself and threw the phone on the ground maliciously to break it with everyone seeing.

You have a chain of evidence issue on the phone being broken, it could have been broken before or after.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

While the other child did break the phone, do you think the parents will pay? Is the phone insured?
Our son recently got a phone and we made sure to put insurance on it. I feel like it's inevitable for kids this age that the phone will be broken or lost.
Good luck, hope you get it resolved!

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