Taking Back My Phone

boy in superman shirt playing with cell phone

I’m not sure how it happened. Probably the side effect of being a third child, dragged to older siblings’ after school activities with nothing to do. Or, maybe it was eating at restaurants that beg for good behavior when the stars aligned for anything but. Or, the fact that his sister has an iTouch and his brother loves the computer and he was left with zero electronics of his very own. Or, that I just can’t resist those eyes.

Whatever the cause, we have a problem, and it’s gotten out of control: Evan seems to think my iPhone belongs to him…. and it doesn’t.

It’s not just the fact that I’ve never liked to share my toys… his use of my iPhone is coming between our relationship. My phone’s and my relationship, I mean. There was the time he used the phone as a flotation device for his preschool characters resulting in a $200 replacement. Or the time when he deleted a dozen e-mails in my inbox that I’m pretty sure I never retrieved and looked like an asshole never responding to. Or when he threw an epic temper tantrum because I dared use it to text back and forth with a friend in the middle of a hurricane. My phone is filled with more stupid kids’ apps than grown up ones and this time, I’m serious. I’m taking back my phone.

I’m not sure how I’m going to do this, exactly, and it’s not going to be pretty. I could go cold turkey and brace myself for days of tantrums until he gets over it, or I could gradually ween him off of his technology crack. I could try and be rational and explain to him why this has to be, or I could blame it on someone else (“The phone people made a new rule. They are for grown ups only now!”) Or, I could just delete all of the apps and play dumb. Maybe a combination of all of those..

Times are changing, Evan. I adore you, but the phone is my toy, dammit. And I’m done sharing. 

Just don’t look at me with those eyes.

About the writer


In addition to being the founder of all things Scary Mommy, Jill is also the New York Times bestselling author of Simon and Schuster’s Confessions of A Scary Mommy and Motherhood Comes Naturally (And Other Vicious Lies)

From Around the Web


Pamela Lewis 12 months ago

My son was 5 and rather than dealing with the complete meltdowns every time I told him he couldn’t play on my phone, when the reason he wanted to play on it was he been allowed to do so, I went to online and got him a very inexpensive tablet to play on.

Madeleine 3 years ago

I have managed to set fairly strict rules regarding when my 2 use my iphone and have stuck to them so far…mainly it’s allowed when we are travelling on the bus or streetcar. I fear the 7ish hour ‘plane journey I have coming up though with just 1 phone. Refereeing the turn-taking on a 20 minute bus journey is one thing, doing the same over hours does not seem like it will be fun.

    Beautiful defiance 3 years ago

    Madeleine maybe you could buy a small MP3 player to put some music on for the journey. Perhaps having a few hours of music would help bridge the gap between turns with the phone. Depending on how old your kids are…

      Madeleine 3 years ago

      I think I might try to avoid the ‘phone altogether on the flight, actually and concentrate on colouring books and reading stories and things.

Andy 3 years ago

Seems you have forgotten who the parent is. It’s simple, mobile phones are too dangerous for children especially young ones. They should not be able to use them. Even when there not talking to someone they put out bad radiation. Increasing the risk of cancers. As parents you should Just say No. Get them something they can use that’s kid friendly.

Beautiful defiance 3 years ago

Hahaha I actually posted on sm about this a few months back to make sure I wasn’t jut being an ass not wanting my kids to play with mine. SO thought I should share but I felt that “it’s MINE!” And I didn’t want to share. Maybe get him an iPod touch and he can get all those games on there.

ccj 3 years ago

omg i can so relate to this. and it is def the 3rd child syndrome. i did the same thing just to have a few minutes of peace in the car, the grocery store, while talking on the phone, well, anytime i guess. my adorable third child threw two of my phones into fountains…oh so fun. i finally had to hijack my phone back, but he’s ten now, and he still takes my phone from time to time so he and his brother can face time while they play Minecraft together! it never ends. thank you scary mommy for another post that made me laugh. you are the best!

Lu 3 years ago

On second thought maybe tear it away on little bit at a time, that’s how I take off my bandaids. Yeah, that would be kinder.

Lu 3 years ago

Do it like a bandaid. Tear it away all at once, haha! When our kids look at us with those sweet little eyes it is hard not to give them whatever they want. I hope my kids don’t read this!

Sarah 3 years ago

Ohhh yeah. So there. We have every thing ever made by LeapFrog, plus an iPod Touch, and an old iPhone, both loaded with kids apps. (I know, you don’t need to tell me. Excess.) And yet NONE of these are quite as much fun as Mommy’s phone or Daddy’s iPad! We’ve had to implement a ban on ‘electronics’ during the week. Friday afternoons my son (5) comes running out of daycare saying “We get to have electronics tonight!!” — at least it’s down to just battling on the weekends.

Also… SO GLAD we locked down the iPad, as my son came to me one day asking me to put in the password. “Why?” “Um, no reason…” Turns out he was trying to buy $900 worth of ‘gems’ in some game. Seriously.

Karyn 3 years ago

I thought loading cartoons to my iPad was okay. Now it’s his and I had to buy myself a new one. New mom obviously.

Observacious 3 years ago

For a long time I managed to convince my kids that only daddy’s phone could play games. Then one day I got desperate while waiting at the pediatricians office. I downloaded an app, now mommy’s phone is fair game too. As is the iPad, which is seems that no adult is allowed to touch until after bedtime. I’d reclaim the devices for adult-kind, but then I’d need to find another way to amuse the kids.

Erin I’m Gonna Kill Him 3 years ago

There needs to be a self-detonate app. That’ll teach ’em.

shate98 3 years ago

LOL. I literally JUST posted about my toddler usurping my iphone, and then come over here and read your post. It’s an epidemic!

Marta 3 years ago

GOOD LUCK! I’m always trying to pry my phone from my kids. That’s a part of the reason I got the lifeproof case. If my two year old drops it (on the floor or water) it will be okay. However, this does make them believe that all phones are indestructible… which is perhaps a bad lesson to teach!

Debbie – Wrinkled Mommy 3 years ago

This is a problem in my home too. It all started when I started using it as a means to keep my kids quiet and entertained, especially at restaurants. Now it has turned into one big fight-fest over who is taking too long and whose turn it is next, etc. I wish I had the financial means to buy a tablet for each kid like some parents do. But come to think of it, even then, mine would find a way to argue over whose was shinier or something.

Tracy Larson 3 years ago

Too funny. I charge a renting fee for my boys to have my phone, but they’re ten!

Jack 3 years ago

I don’t have this problem because I taught the kids that dad’s phone is strictly for business and reminded them that they can always use mom’s phone ‘cuz she doesn’t really need hers for much.

Hee hee, worked out pretty well for me. 😉

Danielle 3 years ago

Stay strong! I am sure in a couple of years he will have convinced you to get him on of his own…..

Lynn Kellan 3 years ago

I’m anxious to hear how you reclaim your phone, because that might teach me how I can reclaim my computer!

Jennifer Wilck 3 years ago

When I had my first book published, my parents bought me an iPad as a congratulatory present. My kids, despite my “rules” to the contrary (and probably due to my weak willpower) put more games on it and used it more than I did. My youngest is getting an iTouch in about a week (after saving up for it). I am counting the days until I can delete every one of her games!

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes 3 years ago

Get him to wear dark sunglasses all the time. Then those eyes won’t tempt you.

Kim 3 years ago

Good luck with getting that phone back lady! Don’t even have to see the eyes, he had me at the lashes!

Carolina 3 years ago

My toddler could not care less for my phone. It has zero games in it. Besides, mommy is an android developer and has a kindle fire, a nook, nexus 7 tablet and I think, four more smartphones just laying here and there. Oh, did I mentioned the iphone I own to cross reference applications?
And when I was pregnant I really wanted to keep my future kid away from the tv. Well, I did that alright, who cares about the TV when there is smartphone treasure island in the house?
If it is of any use to you, I have linked the smartphone time to the meals (after meal) to minimize exposure.

Kim at Not My Mom’s Blog 3 years ago

Our son has hijacked our iPhones AND our iPad but there are benefits. He showed me how to keep the caps on when texting by hitting the arrow key twice. And he’s 4.

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    I swear, Evan knows how to navigate the phone better than I do. Totally scary.

Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) 3 years ago

My 8yo twins have figured out the password to my iPhone. And they never forget it. They may forget to bring their lunch bags home. They may forget to flush the toilet.

But they never forget my iPhone password. I know, because I sometimes do. And then they tell me what it is.

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    That’s hilarious. And would totally happen here.

Jennifer 3 years ago

I started letting mine play with it under those same conditions. I told myself it would be “just this one time.” Now it is every time we go somewhere, and the worst part is that they fight over it. My plan? Put all the kiddie apps on David’s phone and then they can play with his.

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    I like the way you think.

      Sarah 3 years ago

      Haha, that’s totally what I did: got a Blackberry (great for texting, lousy for apps) and neither kid ever wants to touch my phone. Hubby has an iPhone, it practically belongs to the kids, has, oh, I dunno, 16 pages of kids apps on it?
      Totally go for one that the kids won’t actually want, it’s so much easier!

Mamarific 3 years ago

I just got a new iphone, and I resolve I will not let my kids get their grimy hands on it. We can do this, right?!?!

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    YES!!!! (I think)

Sarah 3 years ago

I’m thinking about getting my 6 yr old a refurbished iPod touch for Xmas. For this reason. Get your sticky ass fingers off my phone!

    Sandy 3 years ago

    Oh this Christmas I went totally techie. My 14 yr old got her own laptop, 2 ipod touches (brand new refurbs from ebay) for my 13 and 10 yr old sons, and 2 HKC, 1 pink and 1 purple tablets (from walmart $99.00 each) for my 8 and 6 yr old girls. The 5, 3, and 2 yr olds are just gonna have, are going to have to share or be really nice to me and maybe I’ll let them use my iphone.

Denise 3 years ago

Wow, now I’m really glad I don’t do smartphones–I refuse to pay for a data plan when I’m already paying for internet in the house.

But I have to say, anyone who gives a piece of fragile technology to a 2 year deserves a cracked screen. Would you give a 2 year old your favorite antique doll with a ceramic head to play with. No.

I’m not anti-tech, not for a kid old enough to be gentle. I got an ipad this year and I’m fine letting my 5 year old (and 13 year old) share it with me. It’s a toy. An expensive toy, but I only need it occasionally for work when I take notes on it at meetings.

Chris 3 years ago

LOL I took back my phone. I have 2 kids ages 9 & 11, & 9 grandkids all under 8.
I deleted every kid game off of my phone. I was sick and tired of never being able to find my phone. I was tired of my photo album being full of 1000 pictures of blurry Dora the Explorer etc. Also, one 5 year old grandson took pictures of himself peeing…Yeah, I could go to jail for that picture!!
I’m tired of toddlers throwing a fit when I won’t just hand over MY phone.

Make him go cold turkey. It’s better in the long run. :-)

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    I have a few the kids took that I could totally go to jail for, too. Yikes.

    Sandy 3 years ago

    Just the other day, I found like 10 pics of my 2 yr old butt naked and spread eagle, I was like holy shit, and I immediately deleted them, along with the other 526 photos they had taken that day.

Stephanie 3 years ago

They have those kid-type tablets. Think he would go for one of those? Or a Kindle DX or something?

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    Probably. And he does have a birthday coming up…

Kiinu 3 years ago

I don’t have a touch screen, my 3yo can’t figure out the blackberry trackball…

However, as soon as we walk into Nanas house he is rummaging through her school bag for her iPad. She wants to buy him his own.

Kristin 3 years ago

My kid has 4 old smart phones from grandparents, me, my husband, etc. She still wants our smartphones. She can even unlock them and find her own games and she’s only 2 1/2. I just hope that with all this early technology she can help me with this stuff when I’m old :)

Angie 3 years ago

Mine ask for my phone as soon as walk in the door after work, sometimes even before I walk inside. No hugs or kisses, just want the phone. Then they get mad if I say no and throw a fit. Told them yesterday they’re cut off for a week. We’ll see how long I can stick to that.

aimee @ smilingmama 3 years ago

I have the same problem! I put a password on my phone and am VERY stingy now about when I hand it over. I wish there was a way to lock everything except one page that has all the game apps or something. Maybe you can look into that for us :)

    Kristin 3 years ago

    There are a bunch of apps out there that provide a safe place to put all the kid’s apps. Most of them are add-free and if you get a good one, you can lock it so they can’t exit the program without a code so they aren’t able to play with anything else.

SaraMommy 3 years ago

I just have a boring, dumb phone, so no problem there! But all hell breaks lose if my almost 2 yr old sees my Kindle Fire! He thinks it is his and it drives me crazy…so I have stopped using it in front of him. Problem solved. At least the apps are educational, right?!? :)

Lindsey Cooper 3 years ago

Nintedo DS for Christmas!

Amy Bliss 3 years ago


See, I don’t have a smart phone. I know.. *GASP*

I don’t.

However, the kid’s father does and so he’s inundated with various games and whatnot. I don’t mind loading a few games on my kindle, but yeah…. still mine.

You have fun with the weaning. *grin*

Mindy 3 years ago

That’s easy, give ds your iPhone (airplane mode of course) and upgrade your phone to the new….voila lol. My phone now has NO kids games, no movies, and they are not allowed to play with it!

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    See, mine will happily entertain himself with the camera and the results are cute. Maybe his own really is the solution.

Shell 3 years ago

Mine think my phone is theirs too. I keep swearing they won’t use it again and then something happens and I need a moment’s peace so I give in.

Heather Roberts 3 years ago

Good luck! This is such an issue for soooo many parents these days. Personally… if it was in the budget I would replace it with a new electronic for him. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t want to share my phone with my toddler.

My sister upgraded her phone and let her son have the old one with all his learning apps already installed, though a few weeks later he threw her new iPad at her and cracked the screen because she told him he couldn’t touch it. (0.o) he’s 2 otherwise there would be serious consequences.

Leap pad, leapster, tablet, ipod, ipad, gameboy, 15 year old laptop… ‘eh whatever works. Sounds like everyone else has their electronic fix, so he needs his too. :)

Old School/New School Mom 3 years ago

Right on! I’m going to follow suit. This phone is mine!

Sara 3 years ago

You could just get him an iPod touch and put the kid apps on that. It will cost you but to me it beats losing my phone or having to listen to the temper tantrums.

The Sadder But Wiser Girl 3 years ago

Perhaps he needs a Leapster explorer? I’m not sure how old he is… I am pretty sure it’s kind of like the iphone. I know you can download apps for it and I think it’s a touch screen.

I have a Smartphone but I don’t really have any cool kid friendly apps on it other than the wallpaper that came with it that you can touch and it responds. So I guess I’m fortunate that it hasn’t fallen into the wrong hands, just into the toilet.

And yes, I can’t resist my four year olds’ eyes either… I’m thinking they’re a secret weapon.

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    He has a Leapster, but suddenly it’s not cool enough. Because it’s not mine.

Crystal 3 years ago

I know this may be “bad parenting”,but get a kurio or nabi2(not the original nabi). Especially great for people who have more than 1 kid b/c they can have their thing and you can have yours.And on the Kurio you can set time limits and it shuts off when the time is up… They’re linked to the android store and look just as good as kindle fire. Very awesome!

Jenea 3 years ago

Our solution is to buy my 8yo son an iPod. Not the right solution, I know. But everyone is happy and I get to delete Stick Stunt Biker, Fruit Ninja, 5 different Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Temple Run and Where’s My Perry. Although, a few of those may stay…..

    Sandy 3 years ago

    OMG, I can’t stand stick stunt biker, fruit ninja is ok, but that biker one totally pisses me off, I make the kids either leave the room, or turn the volume all the way down.

Beverley 3 years ago

Even though you can’t see his eyes in this pic (just his lashes) you can tell he has “those eyes”. Stay strong. In the voice of Rob Schneider’s character in Waterboy “You can do iiiiit!!”

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    They get me every time, dammit.

SoberJulie 3 years ago

Oh I feel this pain and refuse to admit its been caused by my laziness! Right now I am two finger typing on my iPad because my computer has a virus and the children killed my back up!

Alison 3 years ago

My son broke my first smartphone.

So we gave him an iPad. #badmom

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    LOL. Suckers!

Wendi Kilbride 3 years ago

I’m due for my iphone 5 upgrade in 46 days(not that I’m counting). When I get my new toy, my darling boy is getting my old 4 with the broke ass screen(he broke) It won’t have phone service but he’ll still have his stupid alphabet apps that he’s hooked to like crack. I’m OVER prying MY phone out of his sticky little hands so that I can answer a work email. DONE!

    Jenna Kinslow 3 years ago

    Good luck. I too, thought this would be a perfect solution. My 2 year old has totally fucked my iPhone 4 up. I have to talk on speaker phone, the camaras broke, it never rings and only vibrates when I don’t care to talk to the person calling. I ordered my iPhone 5 two weeks ago. I’m still waiting on my salvation to come in the mail. I checked the website today and it says my precious phone is backordered. 14-21 more days, possibly more. 21 more days without a proper phone/fake texting machine. I’m not sure we can make it. I’m losing patience and I think the evil spawn is cutting another tooth…

Glory @ 3 Monkeys and a Martini 3 years ago

Oh the meltdowns! My son says at least a dozen times a day “ky use your sone for Lego Dino’ or something to that effect. And he gets pissed when I actually need it. Like to make a phone call. Sometimes it’s the only way to get the kid to shut up: here, angry birds, be gone with you.

tracy@sellabitmum 3 years ago

Seriously, I’m trying to remember how to entertain my kids w/o the phone…lol

kelleyellen 3 years ago

Probably a bad solution, but I recently got an upgrade and now my old phone is my toddler’s phone. Of course, she still wants my phone, because it’s mine.

Traci 3 years ago

My friend implemented a “beans for screens” policy for her little guy that had the same issue. For good behavior, he earns “beans” (they used dried pinto beans) and they were put in a jar. Five beans = fifteen minutes of screen time. Seems to have worked!

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    Ohhhhh, I like that!

Kiran@Masalachica 3 years ago

Delete all the games just in case he manages to sneak it out of your purse, password protect it and train him out of it.

Listen, we had to do it with pacifiers. That sucked. And those eyes were even bigger then.

Be strong girlfriend, you can do it.

    Scary Mommy 3 years ago

    The problem with password protect? I likely won’t remember it myself.

      Kelly 3 years ago

      You are not alone… Thanks to mom brain I can’t remember a PW to save my life!

      Lollie ~ The Fortuitous Housewife 3 years ago

      Turn the number pad upside down & spell something memorable … “07734” on an upside down calculator spells “hello”. Check out 317707 sometime.

    Lollie ~ The Fortuitous Housewife 3 years ago

    Oh Jill, I feel your pain – this is why I call ’em Kiddie iCrack.

    Ditto Kiran’s app deletion plan. I’ve done it on several occasions. No warning, no notification – watching their stunned faces when they first discovered the mysterious demise of their precious apps was priceless! Sure, the first time was a bitch, but now I have a great weapon when the little monsters piss me off, monopolize mommy’s iToys or do something particularly evil.

    In fact, it happened just last week after The Baron of Boredom absconded with my iPad, and while watching Ninjago videos and practicing his ninja moves knocked my iPad to the concrete basement floor, shattering the screen. Mama was pretty annoyed when she had to shell out $250 for a replacement! Bye-bye APPS!

    Good luck. Be strong. You deserve your toys!

      Sandy 3 years ago

      You think that is bad, my 2 yr old is totally addicted to my ipad, except this will be the and LAST time that little devil will ever touch my ipad, see they last time she used it, she got pissed off at it, and head butted it so hard she cracked the screen. This isn’t the first time, this is the 3rd time I have had to replace the screen. I’m sick of this shit, this is my TOY not theirs, I want my ipad and my iphone back.


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