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Colorado Voters Will Get A Chance To Prevent Preteens From Using Smartphones


Some enterprising Colorado residents have turned a small tech panic into a stupid ballot measure. (via Free Range Kids)

Dr. Timothy J. Farnum apparently doesn't like the way his teenaged kids act. He blames this on smartphones.

"They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were," he said.

With one of his sons, then 12, he thought the problem became bad enough to warrant taking the phone away.

"(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."

Because parenting is hard, Farnum has decided to see if the state can't pick up his parenting slack. He has introduced a ballot measure that would ban retailers from selling phones to preteens, even indirectly. If this anesthesiologist can find 300,000 like-minded idiots willing to follow him into legislative infamy, his proposal could possibly become law.

To drum up support for his idea, Farnum has cobbled together a website that probably looks terrible on mobile devices. It certainly looks awful on the regular web.

And it's full of terribleness -- half-arguments and citation-less assertions, not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a board of directors composed of people with medical degrees. Here's just a few of the convincing arguments Farnum deploys:

Years from now parents will look back on our time and shake their heads and wonder how we allowed this atrocity. Allowing our children to be robbed of their carefree days of wonder, laughter, and normal natural development. Yes, they will wonder, didn't they see it?, didn't they see their children stop achieving, stop playing, stop laughing, ceasing to be free? Instead, isolating themselves in their rooms choosing soft and cushy electronic lives over their real ones. Didn't they see the damage?

Or:

Currently, parents are supposed to do everything, and the manufacturers, content and service providers, basically everyone in the whole industry gets a free pass. Parents are somehow supposed to be up to date on the current recommendations on usage from experts, and enforce these recommendations, plus guard their children everywhere they go. This is not only unfair, it is altogether impossible given the saturation of our children's environment.

Or:

The wild west free for all that we have now has left parents with little clear direction, and has caused incalculable damage to children. The American Academy of Pediatricians came out in 2000 with their recommendations, reaffirmed them in 2012, and yet parents are unaware, and children continue to be harmed.

FINALLY. A citation to something other than Farnum's gut instinct, or how the world should change to better accommodate his strained relationship with his sullen, withdrawn children. Something written by someone other than an anesthesiologist.

Or not. There's no link to these recommendations or direct quotes from any AAP report. It's as if Farnum believes you can just type something on the internet and readers are obligated to believe it.

The AAP certainly doesn't suggest legislation should take the place of parenting, no matter how Farnum skews it.

The AAP recommends that parents and caregivers develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.

“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” which focuses on infants, toddlers and pre-school children. “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”

What a revolutionary idea: parents engaging in the act of parenting! But if that's not for you, there's Farnum's ballot measure [PDF], which is prefaced with phrasing guaranteeing it will never be taken seriously.

WE THE PARENTS AND CONCERNED CITIZENS OF THIS MOST MAGNIFICENT STATE THROUGH FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE AND MOUNTING SCIENTIFIC DATA HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THAT SMARTPHONES ARE ADDICTIVE, HARMFUL, AND DANGEROUS IN THE HANDS OF CHILDREN.

THE MANUFACTURES AND SERVICE PROVIDERS OF SMARTPHONES HAVE CONTINUED UNABATED TO PROMOTE THEIR USE IN A RECKLESS AND WANTON MANNER, WITH NO CONCERN FOR OUR CHILDREN'S HEALTH OR SAFETY.

OUR GOVERNMENT BODIES ON ALL LEVELS HAVE FAILED TO GRASP THE LEVEL OF ADDICTION, THE SEVERITY OF THE HARM, OR THE UNMENTIONABLE STARK DEPRAVITY OF THE DANGERS.

WE AS PARENTS FIND THIS MATTER TO BE SO WIDESPREAD, SO INSIDIOUS AND OF THE VERY HIGHEST PRIORITY. NO HALF MEASURES, INEFFECTUAL EDUCATION CAMPAIGNS, NEW APPLICATIONS, OR PROMISES FROM MEGA-CORPORATIONS OF IMPROVEMENT WILL SUFFICE TO CAUSE THE GREAT CHANGE NECESSARY TO RESCUE THIS AND GENERATIONS OF CHILDREN TO COME FROM THE CARELESS AND EXPERIMENTAL INTRODUCTION OF SIMILAR TECHNOLOGIC[AL] DEVICES AND ADVANCEMENTS BY PROFIT DRIVEN CORPORATIONS.

It's pretty much a conspiracy theorist's message board post, only with some nonsensical legislation attached. The proposal would require retailers to ask customers if they're buying phones for preteens and, apparently, refuse the sale if the answer is "yes." Retailers are also required to put up signage informing customers of the new state-enforced policy and train employees to dig into the details of customers' purchases. Then they'll have to turn this information over to the state.

(4) RETAILER SHALL VERBALLY INQUIRE ABOUT THE AGE OF INTENDED PRIMARY OWNER PRIOR TO COMPLETING THE SALE OF ANY SMARTPHONE.

(5) RETAILER MUST DOCUMENT THE RESPONSE OF PURCHASER AND KEEP A RECORD OF THIS RESPONSE.

(6) RETAILER MUST FILE A MONTHLY REPORT TO THE DEPARTMENT THAT PROVIDES A LISTING OF:

(a) THE TYPE OF PHONE THAT WAS PURCHASED EITHER SMARTPHONE OR CELLULAR

(b) THE AGE OF THE INTENDED PRIMARY OWNER AT TIME OF PURCHASE

This is a really disturbing addition, as it places smartphone sellers under a more pervasive form of regulation than sellers of other age-controlled items like alcohol, cigarettes, and porn. And it makes no sense at all to maintain these records, as the proposal contains no avenue of state recourse against parents who lie to retailers about the cellphone recipient's age.

Retailers who violate the law face steadily-increasing fines, starting at $500 and topping out at $20,000. Retailers are given an "affirmative defense" to use when accused of violating the law, but can only use this defense twice in a 24-month period. And it's not really an affirmative defense. It's really nothing more than a statement of compliance with mandated sales policy changes that can be used to shield the retailer from fines if it's determined to have violated the law.

Finally, to cap off the nonsense this is, Farnum's own site presents this contradictory argument:

It absolutely is a parents right to choose how to raise their child. But it is also our American parents right to form an alliance together and try to make manufacturers and service providers accountable for the mess they have created.

It is a parent's right to choose. Here's some legislation taking that choice away! And some sort of plan to collect reparations from local retailers for the evils perpetrated on society by manufacturers. Somehow this proposal managed to survive the scrutiny of state ballot officials, which doesn't say much for their judgment skills.


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