A Denver-area anesthesiologist is proposing a ballot initiative to make Colorado the first state in the country to ban cellphones for children younger than 13 because of the negative impact these devices have on children.
The idea for the law came from watching the way his children struggled with the psychological and often addictive effects of always having a smartphone in their hands.
“They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were,” he said.
“(With smartphones), the internet is always begging for your attention,” he said. “The apps are all designed to addict you. … For children, it’s not a good thing.”
The problem became so bad that he took the phone away from one of his sons, who was 12 at the time.
Farnum’s proposal would require retailers to ask cellphone purchasers for the age of the intended user of the phone and to file a monthly report with the state proving that they complied with this directive. Repeat offenders could be charged up to $500 fine if they sell a phone for a youngster’s use again within two years.
Last month, the proposed ballot language submitted by PAUS to the Secretary of State received approval and Farnum can now get to work on gathering the nearly 300,000 signatures it needs to get on the ballot in November, 2018.
But his proposal is already under fire from those who believe it’s ultimately up to a parent to decide at what age their child is mature enough to handle a smartphone and its inherent dangers.
Colorado Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, told the Coloradoan that he understands the reasoning behind the proposed law, but he thinks it oversteps the government’s role into private family life.
“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” he said. “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.”
Besides the fact that enforcing the proposed law would be a logistical nightmare, Kefalas said, “I don’t think it’s the most effective way to deal with a real problem that our children spend too much time on the computer or too much time looking down at their phones.”
The irresponsible use of media by children is indeed a legitimate problem, however, particularly in regard to bullying, and one that even children admit needs attention.
For example, statistics cited in the Young Women of Grace Study program for girls ages 13-17, more than 70 percent of teens say the spreading of rumors on cell phones and social networking sites is a serious problem.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for media use by children and has published the following recommendations:
• For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video chatting.
• Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
• For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
• For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
• Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
• Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
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