Colorado Bal­lot Ini­tia­tive Would Ban Smart­phone Sales To Kids

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY JANET BURNS, FORBES CON­TRIB­U­TOR

An Ore­gon dad wants to en­sure that the de­vel­op­men­tal dan­gers of smart­phones won’t be so easy for chil­dren to ac­cess in fu­ture.

Af­ter wit­ness­ing tech-based reclu­sive­ness among his own kids, Den­ver­based anes­the­si­ol­o­gist Tim Far­num is tak­ing a stand against un­der­age cell­phone ac­qui­si­tion in his home state. As Busi­ness In­sider re­ported, Far­num is on a mis­sion to help par­ents help their kids avoid the an­ti­so­cial, po­ten­tially mood-low­er­ing ef­fects of too much screen time, and has trans­lated that mis­sion into pro­posed law.

De­vel­oped by the non-profit Par­ents Against Un­der­age Smart­phones (PAUS), which Far­num founded in Fe­bru­ary, Colorado bal­lot ini­tia­tive 29 seeks to pro­hibit re­tail­ers in Colorado “from sell­ing or per­mit­ting the sale of a smart­phone to a per­son un­der the age of 13, or to any per­son who in­di­cates that the smart­phone will be wholly or par­tially owned by a per­son un­der the age of 13.” If passed, the mea­sure would make Colorado the first state in the na­tion to reg­u­late smart­phone sales based on age, or for any rea­son, re­ally.

For the sake of the law, a smart­phone re­tailer is de­fined, with some seem­ing vague­ness, as “a busi­ness at a spe­cific lo­ca­tion that sells new or used smart­phones, or a provider that op­er­ates in an­other ju­ris­dic­tion and sells smart­phones to a con­sumer in Colorado.” Pre­sum­ably that would in­clude fancy

bode­gas and pawn shops.

The bal­lot ini­tia­tive also es­tab­lishes that re­tail­ers must “ver­bally in­quire” about the age of the per­son who will be a smart­phone’s pri­mary owner be­fore com­plet­ing the sale, doc­u­ment the cus­tomer’s re­sponse, and file a monthly re­port de­tail­ing the age of each phone’s in­tended user, and whether de­vices were smart­phones or sim­ple cel­lu­lar phones, with the state’s Depart­ment of Rev­enue.

That depart­ment would be­come re­spon­si­ble for in­ves­ti­gat­ing and col­lect­ing fees on vi­o­la­tions to the law, as well as for cre­at­ing a web por­tal to sales re­ports and charg­ing busi­nesses $20 a month for the priv­i­lege.

Stores that vi­o­late the law by sup­ply­ing kids un­der 13 with smart­phones would suf­fer a writ­ten warn­ing for the first of­fense, though the mea­sure es­tab­lishes av­enues for appeal. A sec­ond vi­o­la­tion would re­sult in a $500 fines, a third would cost $2,000, and “fifth and sub­se­quent” vi­o­la­tions could re­sult in fines rang­ing from $2,000 to $20,000. Fis­cal pro­jec­tions for the ini­tia­tive sug­gest that it could raise a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars for the state over the next few years, af­ter ex­penses.

The fact that the mea­sure dis­tin­guishes smart­phones from ba­sic cel­lu­lar phones may be cause for some re­lief among Colorado par­ents who equip their kids with phones for safety rea­sons, or whose care re­quires that one be avail­able. Specif­i­cally, the ini­tia­tive de­fines the off-limit kind of gadget as “a mo­bile phone that per­forms many of the func­tions of a per­sonal com­puter, or as a hand­held de­vice with mo­bile in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity.” As the Wash­ing­ton

Post re­ported, Far­num claims that the mea­sure has seen “over­whelm­ing” sup­port from adults who’re con­cerned that an abun­dance of screen time can keep kids from ex­er­cis­ing their minds

and bod­ies with more ac­tive, so­cial, or imag­i­na­tive play. Ac­cord­ing to the Post, how­ever, “Far­num also faces op­po­si­tion from oth­ers, in­clud­ing some law­mak­ers, who be­lieve that it’s a parental re­spon­si­bil­ity, not one for govern­ment.”

As some point, by what­ever means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are avail­able, busi­nesses and kids will pre­sum­ably weigh in.

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