“Is this smartphone for a kid?” Colorado retailers would have to ask – and turn you down – under this ballot proposal.

3 min. read
Smart phones galore for Dave Matthews at the National Western Complex for Tim Kaine and Get Out the Vote. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

In Colorado, nearly any issue can be put on the ballot to be decided by voters. The state previously has legalized marijuana and boosted solar energy by popular votes.

Now, a new organization hopes that the people will agree that smartphones are a scourge on the youth -- and they're making some progress, though they've got a long way to go.

Tim Farnum, an anesthesiologist and father of five, is one of the creators of "Parents Against Underage Smartphones," a campaign that aims to ban retailers from selling smartphones for use by children under the age of 13.

Colorado officials have approved the language of the proposal. Now the organizers have to collect 300,000 voter signatures to put it before the state's voters in 2018, the Associated Press reports. Depending on how well organized the group is, you may see campaigners on the street, asking whether you agree.

And then, of course, it would still have to win a majority of votes.

"As we look back though (sic) history we see how many decades it took to enforce age limits on tobacco, to get people to use seat belts, to limit underage drinking, to stop child labor, we have age limits on pornography, movie attendance, driving a car, all of which are appropriate. We don't have decades to wait for something to be done!" the campaign states.

If approved, the new law would impose fines of anywhere from $500 to $20,000 on retailers who sell smartphones for use by underage kids. Clerks would be required to ask whether the "intended primary owner" of a phone is under 13.

Those responses would be documented and submitted to the state. State officials also would conduct compliance checks.

The measure distinguishes smartphones from handheld cell phones, which would still be allowed for kids.

The "internet is always begging for your attention," Farnum told The Coloradoan. "The apps are all designed to addict you. ... For children, it's not a good thing."

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  • That children under 18 months not be allowed any screen time;
  • That kids 2 to 5 be limited to an hour per day of "high-quality programs"
  • That kids 6 and older have consistent limits.
Here's how it would appear on the ballot:

"Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes prohibiting a retailer from selling a smartphone to a purchaser who is a minor under the age of thirteen or who intends to purchase a smartphone for primary ownership by such a minor and, in connection therewith, distinguishing between smartphones subject to the prohibition and cellular phones not subject to the prohibition and specifying how the prohibition will be enforced?"

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