Colorado May Make It Illegal for Adults to Buy Smartphones for Their Kids

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 9:04 am, June 21, 2017

A new proposed law in Colorado threatens to ban the sale of smartphones to children. Denver-based anesthesiologist Tim Farnum is campaigning to restrict the sale of the high-tech devices to preteens after he witnessed his own children’s social reclusiveness, which he believes is caused by smartphone use. If passed, the far-reaching law will impact the sale of smartphones in general and curtail existing freedoms enjoyed by the public pertaining to their use.

Tim Farnum

Business Insider reports that Farnum is crusading to help parents prevent their children from becoming antisocial and “moody,” which he says is caused by spending too much time in front of smart phones. His campaign has been translated into a proposed law that’s appearing on the Colorado ballot as Initiative 29.

Farnum founded a non-profit organization called Parents Against Underage Smartphones to develop Initiative 29, which will prohibit cellphone retailers “from selling or permitting the sale of a smartphone to a person under the age of 13, or to any person who indicates that the smartphone will be wholly or partially owned by a person under the age of 13.”

In other words, even if you’re a parent who monitors your child’s smartphone usage, you’ll not be allowed to buy one for your kids. If the measure is successful, Colorado will be the first state to regulate smartphone usage for any reason whatsoever.

According to Forbes, the initiative will require retailers to “verbally inquire” about the age of the intended recipient of the smartphone, document the buyer’s response, and even file a monthly report to Colorado’s Department of Revenue detailing the age of the user using it. The department will be responsible for investigating cases, collecting fines, and creating a web portal for businesses, which must pay $20 a month for the privilege of submitting sales reports.

Stores will have to abide by a three-strikes system set to punish them with a written warning for their first offense, a $500 fine for the second, a $2000 fine for the third. Subsequent violations will range up to $20,000 per offense.

As Forbes notes, the proposed law would apply to “a business at a specific location that sells new or used smartphones, or a provider that operates in another jurisdiction and sells smartphones to a consumer in Colorado.” The vagueness of the language would therefore allow the law to extend to online retailers as well as pawnshops and grocery stores.

Farnum told the Washington Post that his initiative has received “overwhelming” support from other helicopter parents concerned about their children’s smartphone activity. His proposal has met with resistance from lawmakers who say that it shouldn’t be the government’s job to raise your kids.

“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” Colorado state Sen. John Kefalas said to the Coloradan. “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.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.