Colorado Man Seeks Ban On Smartphone Sales To Children 13 And Younger

A Colorado dad is one step closer to getting his wish for a mobile phone ban to minors. Tim Farnum, a Denver-area father and anesthesiologist is spearheading the campaign to forbid the sale of cellphones to children younger than 13 years old as part of a broader effort to see less children engaged in hours of smartphone use on any given day. He has the attention of Colorado officials, who have drafted a proposed ballot for a 2018 vote.

For that to happen, Farnum and officials would have to obtain 300,000 voter signatures to the proposal. If that were to happen, Colorado residents would then vote on a bill to require cellphone retailers to ask potential customers the age of the primary user of a smartphone. Retailers would also be required to submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Smatphones Teens
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

"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," Farnum told The Coloradoan.

Farnum says he started fighting for a ban after seeing his own kids "lock themselves in their room and change who they were" as a result of having access to smartphones. Indeed, prolonged cellphone use is not recommended—the American Academy of Pediatrics last fall updated its guidance on media use among children. The recommendation is to limit use of smartphones and other media devices to no more than an hour of high-quality programming per day until the age of 6. After that, parents should set time limits that do not interfere with sleep or physical activity.

Therein lies the problem for Farnum. Senator John Kefalas (D., Colorado) said he understands where Farnum is coming from, but that government regulation is not the answer. Instead, he views it as a "family matter." That is likely to be a popular opinion, both among government officials and voters.

Nevertheless, Farnum is convinced that ban is necessary. In speaking with The Washington Post, Farnum tells of how his "energetic and outgoing boys" transformed as a result of a smartphone use. In addition to staying locked in their bedrooms, they became moody and quiet.

"If you tell them to watch the screen time, all of a sudden the fangs come out," Farnum said.

As part of the proposed bill, the Colorado Department of Revenue would have to create a website to collect reports from cellphone retailers. The department would also be responsible for investigating violations and collecting fines—retailers would first be hit with a written warning, followed by a $500 fine for a second infraction. After that, the fine would double with each subsequent infraction.