Colorado Could Ban Smartphone Sales to Children

Colorado may ban the sale of smartphones to children under 13, if one father has his way. Dr. Timothy J. Farnum, an anesthesiologist and founder of Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS), started a ballot initiative earlier this year that would require cellphone retailers to ask a customer’s age or the age of the phone’s intended user before completing a sale. The issue has relevance for the promotional products industry given the proliferation of branded smartphone accessories.


Initiative 29 needs to receive roughly 100,000 signatures by the fall to get onto the ballot in time for the 2018 election. If passed, it would go into effect at the beginning of 2019, making Colorado the first state to put legal limits on smartphone sales to children. Farnum told The Washington Post that the initiative has already gained overwhelming support from parents and grandparents worried about how technology affects children’s development and mood.

For his part, Farnum, a father of five, conceived the proposed ban after seeing how his two youngest sons, 11 and 13, acted after receiving a smartphone. “One of my sons, I took it away, and it was a pretty dramatic, very violent outburst,” Farnum told CNN. “He was very addicted to this little machine. It kind of scared me, and that’s really how it started.”

In addition to confirming the age of the intended user, retailers would also have to file a monthly report to the state Department of Revenue listing the types of phones sold and the ages of who purchased them, according to the initiative. Violations would result in a written warning first and a $500 fine next. The fine would double for each successive infraction. Flip-style phones that don’t connect to the internet would not be included in the ban.

A recent study found that screen time for children under age 2 can significantly increase the risk of excessive speech delay. Other surveys find that half of teenagers believe they are addicted to their phones. However, there are no evidence-based age recommendations for when children should get their first phone, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Critics of Farnum’s ballot initiative say it’s not up to the government to regulate smartphone use. Instead, it’s an issue where parents should be in control. “It’s not necessarily the store or the provider’s responsibility to have laws implemented for how you should take care of your child at a consumer level like this. It really starts at home,” digital detox expert Holland Haiis told CNN.

The popularity of smartphones has spawned a slew of accessories in the promotional products realm. Industry suppliers offer everything from phone cases and wallets to styluses, stands and selfie sticks for the ubiquitous mobile device. An ESP search for the term “smartphone” brings up nearly 56,000 related items. A little over a quarter of end-users own a branded mobile power bank, often used to keep phones charged on the go; among 18- to 34-year-olds, that percentage grows to 32%, according to statistics from the 2016 ASI Ad Impressions Study.