Colorado ballot initiative seeks to ban preteen smartphone sales

A Colorado father has joined forces with a handful of medical professionals to form a non-profit group called Parents Against Underage Smartphones, PAUS for short. PAUS, apparently serious despite its difficult-to-take-seriously name, is proceeding with a ballot initiative in Colorado that seeks to ban smartphone sales to preteen children, citing their potentially addictive nature and possible health ramifications.

The entire thing started when Tim Farnum, a 49-year-old anesthesiologist and father of five in Denver, noticed behavioral issues after his two youngest kids — aged 11 and 13 — acquired their own smartphones. According to Farnum speaking to WaPo, instructing his kids to limit their screen time resulted in 'the fangs [coming] out,' as well as temper tantrums if the phones were taken away, moodiness, and other behaviors typical of children.

Those observations, as well as research into smartphone usage in children, resulted in the ballot initiative 29 proposal, which seeks to stop stores and other providers from selling smartphones to anyone under the age of 13. Of course, such a ban would then tack on the burden of providing ID before buying a smartphone in the state, as well as forcing the cellphone providers to send the Colorado Department of Revenue monthly adherence reports.

The taxpayer burdens would include funding the creation of a website through which these reports would be submitted, as well as funding investigations into alleged violations. Cellphone providers who fail to ID potential buyers or who sell a smartphone to a preteen would then be hit with a violation warning, followed by a $500 penalty that would then double for each additional violation.

To the surprise of no one, this proposal have received ample criticism, with those critics spanning everyone from parents to Colorado lawmakers. Critics largely state that it is a parent's responsibility to limit their child's phone usage, and that typical childhood temper tantrums aren't an acceptable reason to create new costly and burdensome legislation.

Such a law won't prevent parents from giving their kids smartphones, and it is doubtful it will have any significant effect in reducing childhood smartphone usage. That aside, such a ban is unlikely to stop young children from acquiring smartphones if they're determined; after all, the average 12-year-old is more likely to buy a friend's old handset than go to the store alone and purchase a new phone without an adult to authorize it.

Still, Farnum and his supporters push on with their plan, citing preteen smartphone usage as harmful and something — like cigarettes and alcohol — that needs to be restricted. 'We have age restrictions on all those things because they're harmful to kids. This is no different, in my opinion.'

Assuming PAUS can get the necessary 100,000 signatures to proceed, this proposal will appear on the ballot late next year.

SOURCE: Washington Post