The spider webs of a cracked screen have become status symbols like torn T-shirts and ripped blue jeans and something of a fashion statement, they admit.
"If you were the only person with a cracked screen, you would probably run out to get it fixed. But everybody else's is cracked, so why not leave it?" 18-year-old Kaitlyn Wilson, of Liberty, Mo., told The Kansas City Star.
"Then Sharpie it, and make a design out of it on Pinterest."
Cracked phone screens as art?
"Color it in," Wilson said. "I've had friends that tried to crack their screen on purpose so they could Sharpie it."
One academic said a cracked screen shows the smartphone owner has been around and provides "street cred," especially for middle-class children.
"Only if you're fairly comfortable can you regard the cases of deterioration or damage to your cellphone as a sign of status," Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, told the newspaper. "If you're poor, then it's just damaged."
Ryan Arter, owner of cellphone repair business in Olathe, Kan., said he knows about the cracked screen trend firsthand, courtesy of his son.
"My son cracked his screen and he said: 'Dad, look at how cool this is. I'm going to leave it this way,'" Arter said.
"And he has a father who owns a business fixing these phones."