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Society

Colorado Dad Wants Ban On Smartphone Sales To Kids

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A Colorado father wants his state to outlaw smartphone sales to children under 13.

Dr. Timothy J. Farnum is petitioning to get Initiative 29 on Colorado's next ballot. The initiative "prohibits 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."

Farnum's says he wants to see this law take effect in Colorado because he has witnessed his young sons' addictive behaviors toward smartphone technology.

"One of my sons, I took it away, and it was a pretty dramatic, very violent outburst," the father of five told CNN. "He was very addicted to this little machine. It kind of scared me, and that's really how it started."

Farnum says his sons, aged 10 and 11, lost interest in activities such as playing outside because of smartphone usage and it disturbed him, as did research on the potentially harmful impacts excessive technology use can have on a person.

Initiative 29 came about after Farnum and some medical colleagues started the organization Parents Against Underage Smartphones.

For Initiative 29 to be placed on Colorado's ballot, it must receive 150,000 signatures.

The initiative would change how businesses go about selling smartphones.

"Retailers must verbally inquire about the age of the intended primary owner of the smartphone prior to the sale, document the response, and file a monthly report to the Department of Revenue that lists the type of phone sold (smartphone or cellular) and the age of the intended primary owner at the time of purchase," the measure states.

It would apply to new and used sales of smartphones in Colorado, and also cover providers that operate in another jurisdiction but sell to consumers in the state.

Violations of the law would first result in a written warning and then in increasing fines. The fine would begin at $500 and reach as much as $20,000 for repeat offenders. 

Farnum shrugs off the criticism, continuing to hold that banning sales of smartphones to those under the age of 13 is a positive measure.

"You know, to most of the people that are saying things like: 'Well, it's a parent's right; how dare the government do this,' I would like to say, 'I'm not the government, I'm a parent. And us parents need to decide what is best for our kids,'" he told CNN. "And we can't do it alone."

CTIA, a trade group that represents the wireless technology industry, does not support the measure, arguing smartphones can benefit children.

"Mobile phones can empower kids to learn, engage and communicate with family, teachers and friends, and we encourage parents to talk with their children about responsible use and set rules that are right for their family. The wireless industry provides a number of tools to help parents make informed choices and manage their children's usage," the group said in a statement.

If enacted, the measure could affect at least 3,221 retail locations in Colorado.

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