In an attempt to redirect kids away from screens, parents in Colorado are petitioning for legislation to ban the sale of smartphones to children under the age of 13.
The grassroots group Parents Against Underage Smartphones are collecting signatures to get Initiative 29 on the 2018 state ballot, a bill they hope will help give kids a chance at a healthier childhood. State officials have approved the language of the bill and now members of the group are working to gather the 300,000 signatures needed to put it to vote.
"Retailers must verbally inquire about the age of the intended primary owner of the smartphone prior to the sale, document the response, and file a monthly report to the Department of Revenue," the bill states. If a smartphone retailer is caught selling a phone to a child under the age of 13 more than once, they could be fined anywhere from $500 to a whopping $20,000.
Founder of the group and a Denver-area anesthesiologist Timothy Farnum, explained to Fox 31 Denver that once children get their hands on a smartphone they drastically change.
“They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive," he said. "They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."
"Eventually kids are going to get phones and join the world, and I think we all know that, but little children, there’s just no good that comes from that," he continued in an interview with the Coloradoan.
However, despite his best intentions some strongly object to Farnum's legislation on the basis that it infringes on the rights of parents.
"Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter," Colorado Sen. John Kefalas 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."
Kefalas also mentions that enforcing the law could present a lot of logistical problems and require resources from the government he's just not sure are worth devoting to this particular problem.
Children certainly do spend a lot of time looking at screens, and the portability of smartphones has only made it easier for them to spend childhood removed from the surrounding world. No one in this case appears to be arguing that, however, the debate lies in who should have control over how much a child is involved with technology. The American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations of media usage for small children to help parents better navigate the technological age, but Farnum and other Initiative 29 supporters think there is also a role for the government to play here. If enough parents agree, it will have to.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson