Should Smartphones Be Banned for Children Under 13?

A Colorado father is campaigning to stop the sales of “addictive devices” in his state

7 July 2017

Colorado could become the first U.S. state to ban smartphones for children younger than 13.

When Denver-area anesthesiologist Tim Farnum attempted to limit the time his two youngest sons, ages 11 and 13, spent on their phones, they acted like drug addicts going through withdrawal. “They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were,” he told the Coloradoan. With smartphones, he added, “the Internet is always begging for your attention. The apps are all designed to addict you.”

According to Internet research Farnum conducted, too much technology too soon can impair brain development, hinder social skills, and trigger an unhealthy reliance on the neurotransmitter dopamine—a high similar to what drug and alcohol addicts feel.

The situation concerned him so much that he drafted the Preservation of Natural Childhood initiative, which would require phone retailers to ask shoppers the age of the intended user and make it illegal to sell smartphones to kids younger than 13. If a retailer doesn’t comply, the first violation would result in a warning. After that, the store could face a fine of up to US $20,000 for multiple violations.

The proposed ballot initiative was approved by state officials, but Farnum still needs 100,000 signatures from Colorado registered voters to have it placed on the ballot next year, according to a Washington Post article.

Farnum is a founder of Parents Against Underage Smartphones, a nonprofit that supports citizen ballot measures to prevent children from using smartphones. PAUS says it’s unfair to expect parents to do everything to protect their children when the kids have easy access to the Web and social media.

Farnum told the Post he understands parents who see smartphone regulation as a parental responsibility and view the ballot initiative as government overreach; however, he says, premature smartphone usage is equivalent to smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or watching pornography.

“We have age restrictions on all those things because they’re harmful to kids,” he says. “This is no different, in my opinion.”

In a CBS News video about the initiative, a Google product manager said parents who assume smartphone use is similar to gossiping on a landline are mistaken. “Landlines didn’t have a thousand engineers on the other side,” he said. “[They update] the way phones work every day to be more and more persuasive.”

In the Coloradoan article, state Sen. John Kefalas said he understands the reasoning behind Farnum’s initiative, but adds that it would give government too large a role. “Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” Kefalas said. “Ultimately, this comes down to parents…making sure their kids are not putting themselves at risk.”

Do you agree with the proposed ban or do you think it would be government overreach?

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