Despite how much teens and tweens love their smartphones (and Musical.ly apps), scientists believe being tethered to these technological devices may potentially have negative health effects on kids. Now, a nonprofit in Colorado has drafted a ballot initiative that, if passed, would make it the first state to establish legal limits on the sale of smartphones to children, the Washington Post reports.
Parents Against Underaged Smartphones (PAUS) was formed in February by anesthesiologist Tim Farnum, a father of five in Denver who told the Post he noticed “some real problems” after purchasing smartphones last year for his two youngest children, aged 11 and 13. Farnum claims his sons, who were previously energetic and outgoing, became moody and reclusive after they got their phones. They rarely left their bedrooms, and had temper tantrums, which he told the Post were akin to the withdrawals of a drug addict, anytime their father tried to take their phones away.
According to the Post, Farnum started researching the side effects of smartphones, and discovered that using too much technology at a young age can reportedly affect brain development, impair social skills, and lead to a dopamine reliance. He subsequently teamed up with several other medical professionals to create PAUS and drafted ballot initiative 29, which would make it illegal for smartphone providers to sell the devices to kids under 13.
Under the initiative, retailers would have to ask customers the age of the primary user of the smartphone, in addition to sending monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Post notes. A first-time violation of the ban would receive a written warning, while the second violation would come with a $500 fine (and the amount would double for each additional incident).
The initiative has reportedly been met with “overwhelming” support from certain parents in the state, though some lawmakers argue that it should be a family’s decision whether a kid can use a smartphone or not. Colorado State Senator John Kefalas told the Coloradoan, “I think ultimately, this comes down to parents … making sure their kids are not putting themselves at risk.”
Farnum hopes to collect 100,000 signatures over the next year and a half, which is required to get the issue on the ballot for the fall of 2018, the Post notes. But, fittingly, Colorado doesn’t accept digital signatures. “It’s kind of ironic, perhaps,” Farnum told the Post. “We’re going to have to go knock on doors and sit outside grocery stores. It’s slowly gaining steam.”