Colorado Considering Smartphone Sales Ban for Children Under 13

Efficacy of proposal's larger goal to limit smartphone use by pre-teens is under doubt.

June 20, 2017 5:00 am
Kids and technology
Some parents are hiring coaches to help them raise their kids away from technology. (Getty)

One dad wants to keep pre-teens away from smartphones, but is his plan realistic?

A ballot initiative proposed by Denver-area anesthesiologist Tim Farnum would make it illegal for stores to sell a phone to children under 13, much like age restrictions for alcohol or tobacco.

According to the Washington Postthe initiative was drafted by a non-profit Farnum started after he concluded smartphones were harming his kids. He feels the mobile devices made his two boys more moody and reclusive. When he took the phones away, Farnum said the reaction was similar to a crack addict in withdrawal.

Concerned for his children, Farnum did some research and said he found studies that linked abundant screen time with developmental and social issues. “Someone has got to do something,” he told the Washington Post.

Under the proposed ban, children under 13 could not purchase a phone, and retailers would also be required to ask adult customers the age of the primary user of the smartphone and submit monthly adherence reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue. First-time violators would get a written warning. After that, retailers would be hit with a $500 fine that doubles with each subsequent violation.

But what isn’t clear is if the ban would actually reduce the number of pre-teens using smartphones in a significant way. A vast majority of the phones are provided to children by their parents, who could easily bypass the ban by passing on hand-me-down phones or buying them online.

Farnum needs to get 100,000 signatures by the fall in 2018 to get his initiative on the ballot.

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