Colorado Ballot Initiative Would Ban Smartphone Sales To Kids
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.