Should Colorado legislators get their way, smartphones and other electronic devices capable of connecting to the Internet would be verboten for kids under the age of 13 — and parents could face up to $20,000 in fines for violating the proposed law.

Intended “to make children free,” Initiative 29 is the brainchild of Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS), a group of concerned parents whose mission statement includes ending “the insane practice of giving children smartphones”; but — while the spirit of the proposed law might be considered a laudable attempt to reconnect kids with nature — in actuality, its Nanny State overtones trump the unabashed appeal to emotion.

If successful in Colorado’s Legislature, the proposed strictures governing children’s use of Internet-connected devices will inculcate parents as de facto agents of the U.S. Police State in holding them accountable for kids’ screen time through an inexcusable, untenable quandary — shared in part with cell phone and electronics retailers.

Indeed, Initiative 29 requires store owners “verbally inquire about the age of the intended primary owner of the smartphone” — a mandated interrogation conditional to the voluntary exchange of goods for payment will undeniably turn parents who feel the question none of the State’s business into potential liars and, thus, criminals.

PAUS president and founder Dr. Timothy Farnum grew disheartened at the deleterious effects on his own children, which, he surmised, stemmed from their constant use of cell phones and forays into the sometimes wild Internet.

“They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were,” lamented Farnum, board-certified anesthesiologist, to The Coloradan. “They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive . . . They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities.”


“(With smartphones), the internet is always begging for your attention,” he added. “The apps are all designed to addict you. … For children, it’s not a good thing.”

However, what Farnum and the initiative’s supporters seemingly fail to grasp is the inordinate overreach by a State so invasive and burdened by excessive law, Big Brother already commands a seat at every family’s dinner table. To additionally mandate retailer interrogation and parental restriction, to boot, not only robs parents of the right to raise children how they see fit, it veritably secures the State as a coercive, fine-imposing babysitter.

“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” asserted Senator John Kefalas, noting the commendable motive behind the legislation does not negate its boundary-trampling reach into our private lives. “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.”

Kefalas speaks to an increased dependence on government to step in where parents may fall short — Farnum’s proposal clears guardians of inherent responsibility for children’s activities and development, instead placing the onus on store owners to perform the tasks of, in essence, State spies — all at the barrel of a weighty financial gun.

Of PAUS, Salon notes,

“On their website, the group points to pediatricians who recommend limiting handheld screen time for kids and an article about Bill Gates’ thoughts on adolescent development and smart phones. They also have a YouTube embed of a Louis C.K. bit about cell phones.

“Among pictures of falling rain, sunflowers, crowds and the random image of Mel Gibson in ‘Braveheart,’ PAUS lays out its argument on their website: the internet is a dangerous place for children.

“PAUS explains, without sourcing much of their information, that the ‘damage begins in the cradle,’ citing parental negligence an overflow of electronic stimulation as the cause for future ‘physical damage’ and ‘stunted social, emotional, and cognitive development.’ Additionally, the group pins pornography and a ‘lack of meaningful connections in a digital society’ as reasons for higher rates of suicide in young girls from ages 10-14.”

To reiterate, the group’s goals might bubble from a place of concern for children’s wellbeing and an apathy becoming entrenched in society that could facilely evince its peril — but, to place a burden of financial culpability as steep as $20,000 after a single verbal warning for 13-and-unders’ use of electronic devices unduly penalizes their access to an entire planet’s wealth of online information.

In fact, the positive benefits reaped in youth having Internet access at the ready comprise a damning counter-narrative to Initiative 29’s foisting of any damaging effects onto the backs of guardians and business owners, who might otherwise engage in a voluntary exchange on their terms.

As Greg Pulscher points out for FEE, “Children’s inactivity is a major rallying cry for the advocates of the initiative. However, smartphones are not the cause of this idleness, smartphones are the symptom. Decades of regulations and cultural norms are treating children as delicate flowers which leads to these unintended consequences.”

Notably, educational psychologist Dr. Peter Gray observes in Free to Learn,

“Surveys of game players in the general population, indicate that kids who are free to play outdoors as well as with video games usually, over time, choose a balance between the two […]

“Video-game play appears to compete much more with television watching than with outdoor play for children’s free time.”

Further, Initiative 29 and PAUS fail to account for an interminable list of reasons parents might provide children with cell phones and other smart devices beyond the simple pleasures of arguably addicting games and apps — whether for safety while alone, purely for portable connectivity to their guardians, or security in ability to summon necessary emergency services — kids’ possession of Internet-ready devices can encompass virtually any sound justification.

None of which deserve any additional excuses by the State to intervene in our private lives.

As with nearly any legislation, examining a slurry of negative ramifications expeditiously destroys any possible positives — particularly in the context of an invasive government, which seems intent only on watching our every move.

Indeed, the Nanny State’s onerous presence in children’s lives as they learn, grow, explore, and adapt to the modern digital world, is far more inclined than any amount of screen time to stunt natural curiosity, foster ambivalence, and strew resentment — particularly if parents are forced to dole out tens of thousands for the ‘crime.’

After all, unless a communist regime usurps power, it is the job of parents, not the State, and certainly not retailers, to see children prepared for the perils of adulthood — whether or not that preparation includes responsible use of the Internet.

Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen.
  • Jamie Hall

    I wonder if this “board-certified anesthesiologist” makes a habit of sampling his own product. It would certainly explain a lot.

  • Gordon Klock

    I can understand the concern over kids having their overall growth, & attention spans limited, by addictive little computer games, & the creepy effect they seem to have on virtually everyone, (myself included) but especially kids too young to understand the potential harm this can do to them over time, but turning to the state for ‘help’ in this regard, is pretty much like asking for more tyrannical nonsense looking over our shoulders, that in all probability will mainly serve as a cosmetic excuse, for making everyone’s lives that much more insufferable….
    (& would this mean that kids cannot ‘look up’ information at all ? Even if it’s educational ? & if so, it would mean this was probably the real intent)…..

    • Damiana

      I didn’t think about that… care to twist me up one of those foil hats?

      • Gordon Klock

        Actually they sprout spontaneous upon my scalp, like some shedding “reptile” skins…

  • Damiana

    PAUS president and founder Dr. Timothy Farnum grew disheartened at the deleterious effects on his own children, which, he surmised, stemmed from their constant use of cell phones and forays into the sometimes wild Internet.

    So basically, he wants children everywhere to be “grounded” because he SUCKED as a parent. Both of my children had FULL access to the internet throughout their childhood and all I had to do to keep them “safe” was supervise and limit their use of it. Of course, that required my occasionally getting off my lazy ass and doing something my kids didn’t quite like… something this “doctor” might have done well to try out for himself before universally declaring all children unfit to handle the internet.

  • Amor Terra

    What a bunch of idiots! So a 12 year old can’t get on the computer to research a paper on honey badgers? Good god. How about a public information campaign instead??

    • Damiana

      There’s no extortion money in that!

    • Echo Moon

      it doesn’t say that a kid can’t access a computer for school work. nor does it say that a kid can’t access the internet for ‘constructive purposes.
      it’s aimed at keeping kids from wasting time on games, fb, snapchat and other places where they could get into trouble so easily without even realizing it.

      • avelworldcreator

        And who is the person who gets to decide if a child is “wasting time” in social applications? And “games” are an important activity for children as is any other form of social play.

        • Echo Moon

          games? oh yeah games are very important. games like baseball, b-ball, soccer, you know those games that encourage face to face real time activities. they also teach team work, cooperation, strategy and fresh air, exercise. being physically active, not cooped up in the house or zoned out.

          • avelworldcreator

            And non-physical games don’t? The military will tell you different. They actually did the research. Both have their places. Get your head out of your stereotypes.

          • Damiana

            Is that what you kids are calling the badonkadonk these days?

          • avelworldcreator

            Still laughing.

      • Amor Terra

        That’s not what the article said. It said smartphones and other devices that can access the internet.

      • G’ma G

        You mean like we used to do as kids in our own forms at the time– living and interacting and learning from mistakes?

  • Michael Williams

    The “doctors” need to be more concerned about what they and their buddies shoot between their toes, snort and drink. Don’t believe me? If you can find Rx for Addiction by Gehring, have a nice long read.

  • Echo Moon

    in all honesty? does anyone under that of 13yrs old ‘need’ a smart phone with internet capabilities? school work??? tablets, laptops and computers certainly for school work or anything else constructive. but smart phones? no someone under the age of 13 does NOT need a smart phone.
    i have no problem with kids using a parent’s smartphone under supervision but not off by themselves hanging on fb, snapchat or any of the other possible ‘trouble’ spots.

    • Muriel Burrows

      My granddaughter is ten years old. She has a smartphone. Her parents lock areas on the phone they believe she does not need. Please stop trying to parent other peoples children and focus on your own.

    • Damiana

      That only becomes an unreasonable policy when you decide to FORCE it on others for whom it might not work.

  • kcgoat

    so you folks out there voted and this is what you got .

    • Damiana

      Don’t look at me – I voted, and NOT for this shit show!

  • avelworldcreator

    1. SCOTUS has ruled that children have the same Constitutional rights as adults.
    2. Those rights include freedom of association.
    3. The internet is a modern and ubiquitous means of association in common use and cannot be denied to any person outside of criminal punishment.
    4. Conclusion: This law tramples on not just the rights of parents but of their children as well.

  • LoveTheBillOfRights

    “As Greg Pulscher points out for FEE, “Children’s inactivity is a major rallying cry for the advocates of the initiative. However, smartphones are not the cause of this idleness, smartphones are the symptom. Decades of regulations and cultural norms are treating children as delicate flowers which leads to these unintended consequences.”

    Hit it right on the head! While I personally would not allow a young child to have a smart phone, that is only my opinion and I have no right to force my parenting style on anyone else through the nanny state. What they also fail to recognize is that kids can’t play outside today. If they do, their parents get arrested for neglect. I was all over the neighborhood as a child exploring and playing. I went polly wogging down by the creek. I played hide and seek in the tops of trees. I had all manner of freedom and experiences without my parents hovering over me that made me the adventurous, self-reliant, hard working person I am today. There were drug houses even then and the odd old man down the street but we had programs in school and parental talks that taught us how to handle situations. Today, children are not allowed to get so much as a scratch. The precious little darlings have become gods in our society and protected to the nth degree no matter how many adults and families it may destroy along the way. Children are not miniature adults, should have the same human rights as anyone else but not the same rights as adults which come with responsibilities they are unable to handle until they mature, and should not be so protected from failure and hard knocks that they can’t become useful members of society.

  • avelworldcreator

    OK. Checked the links in the above article. The parties being fined are only the retailers. There is NO penalty for the parents. None. And the law is strictly limited to smartphones. Of course that definition is pretty vague. I was able to run a browser and play games on a flip phone. Not very well, but not impossible. A parent can lie about the person the phone is purchase for with impunity. In fact any adult can. Or they can just buy the phone over the internet (as can a child if they can figure out a way to pay online – I think gift cards are available to preteens). Of course the law is still bullshit and brings up real Constitutional questions but fact checking of an article is still a thing we all need to do. Something else that might happen is if a parent (or other adult) is truthful about who they are purchasing the phone for and are refused a sale they may simply just cross state lines to make the purchase instead. Idiots.

  • G’ma G

    Nanny needs to get off the steroids.

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