A Colorado group is proposing a ban on the sale to and ownership of smartphones for preteens. Parents Against Underage Smartphones says its goal – "to make children free" — is reflected in its mission to end "the insane practice of giving children smartphones."
Initiative 29 would require retailers to "verbally inquire about the age of the intended primary owner of the smartphone" and file monthly paperwork to the Department of Revenue to make sure kids under the age of 13 don't get access to any cell phone that can connect to the internet. Retailers found selling smartphones to preteens will receive a verbal warning for their first infraction but will face up to $20,000 in fines for future violations.
"They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were," says PAUS president and founder Dr. Timothy Farnum. Thea board-certified anesthesiologist told The Coloradoan “They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive . . . They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."
On their website, the group points to pediatricians who recommend limiting handheld screen time for kids and an article about Bill Gates' thoughts on adolescent development and smart phones. They also have a YouTube embed of a Louis C.K. bit about cell phones.
Among pictures of falling rain, sunflowers, crowds and the random image of Mel Gibson in "Braveheart," PAUS lays out its argument on their website: the internet is a dangerous place for children.
PAUS explains, without sourcing much of their information, that the "damage begins in the cradle," citing parental negligence an overflow of electronic stimulation as the cause for future "physical damage" and "stunted social, emotional, and cognitive development." Additionally, the group pins pornography and a "lack of meaningful connections in a digital society" as reasons for higher rates of suicide in young girls from ages 10-14.
The larger argument PAUS is attempting to share is their belief that there should be "a separate internet which is safe for children," asserting that children are producing child pornography "for the first time in history."
"If my father was still alive he would not believe that my generation of parents would sit by and let this happen to our children," says Farnum on the group's website. "Come with me brothers and sisters. RISE UP!!"
Supporters of the bill will need to collect 300,000 signatures to secure a spot on the 2018 ballot now that the language of the initiative has been approved by Colorado officials.