Colorado Trying to Ban Smartphone Use For Children

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In Colorado, a measure looking to earn its place on the 2018 ballot aims to ban the sale of smartphones to children under the age of 13, a move backed by Parents Against Underage Smartphones. Before it can be placed on the ballot for a public vote, the backers must obtain 300,000 voter signatures.

As reported by Slate, Tim Farnum, an anesthesiologist and founder of the non-profit organization PAUS, is leading the movement after he experienced concerns regarding the potential psychological effects of constant smartphone use on his 12-year-old son.

If the ban is passed, it will not prevent those under 13 years of age from using smartphones. Instead, it would require retailers to request the age of the primary user of the phone as part of the purchase process. The retailer could not sell the smartphone if it was determined the buyer was under 13 years of age or that the device would be “wholly or partially owned by a person under the age of 13.”

Failure to follow the mandate would first result in a warning. A second failure to comply could result in a $500 fine. Additional violations cause the fine to double with each subsequent failure to follow the law.

Cell phones without access to the internet are exempt.

Opponents of the cell phone ban believe that the movement allows the government to have too much involvement in the private lives of citizens, stating that use of the device by children is a family matter.

John Kefalas, a Democratic State Senator, is against the ban. During an interview, Kefalas stated, “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.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines regarding media use and children in 2011. The recommendations included that not child under two years of age should watch television.

In 2016, the AAP created updated guidance, including information about both the positive and negative effects of media use on children. This includes acknowledgments about how media can expose children to “new ideas” and assist with “knowledge acquisition” while providing “increased opportunities for social contact and support. Negative effects were focused on the potential exposure to “inaccurate, inappropriate, or unsafe content and contacts” as well as “compromised privacy and confidentiality.”

The AAP does not specifically recommend banning smartphone use for children under 13 but does recommend parents should monitor its usage and designate media-free time and locations.