Initiative Would Ban Smartphone Sales to Kids

Initiative Would Ban Smartphone Sales to Kids

The proposal’s backer says his children became moody, quiet and reclusive after receiving smartphones.

By Megan Trimble, Associate Editor, Social Media | June 19, 2017

Initiative Would Ban Smartphone Sales to Kids
A Chinese girl chatting with WeChat on smartphone on a moving escalator in Japan

A Colorado nonprofit wants to curb the sale of smartphones to preteens and children. (MOMENT EDITORIAL/GETTY IMAGES)

A Colorado man is leading the charge against preteens’ preoccupation with smartphones.

Tim Farnum, a Denver-area anesthesiologist and father of five, has proposed a ballot initiative to curb smartphone sales and prevent sales to those under the age of 13, according to the Washington Post. If it passes, the initiative would position Colorado as the first state to set legal limits on smartphone sales to children.

The measure would require retailers to ask about the age of the potential phone owner before completing a sale.

Farnum, founder of Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS) the nonprofit group backing the proposal, said his 11- and 13-year-old sons “became moody, quiet and reclusive” after receiving smartphones last year.

“There were some real problems,” he told the Post, citing statistics that highlight negative effects of screen time on kids.

Under the proposal, selling a smartphone to anyone younger than 13 or to anyone purchasing the phone for someone under 13 would initially draw a warning. Two-time offenders would have to pay a $500 fine. Fines would then double with each offense and could reach $20,000 per violation.

The measure would require retailers to also submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue, which would collect the fines.

Farnum told the Post that parents and grandparents with concerns for children’s activity levels and imagination outside of smartphone use have expressed “overwhelming” support for the proposal. Its critics, however, argue the initiative may overstep.

“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” Colorado Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, told the Coloradoan. “I know there have been different proposals out there regarding the internet and putting filters on websites that might put kids at risk. I think ultimately, this comes down to parents … making sure their kids are not putting themselves at risk.”

PAUS would still need to collect about 300,000 voter signatures to get the proposal on the November 2018 ballot, according to the Denver Post.

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