The country may see the first legal age limits on smartphone sales as Colorado officials approve the language of a ballot proposing to restrict the sale of smartphones to children below 13 years of age. The proposed measure will need 300,000 signatures to be certified for the November 2018 ballot, Coloradoan.com reported.
If the measure were to take effect, smartphone retailers will be banned from selling smartphones — defined in the proposal as any handheld device with internet, data or Wi-Fi connectivity — to children belonging to that age bracket. Businesses will also be required to check the valid ID of the intended primary user to ensure that he or she is of age, as well as submit reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue every month. Those found in violation of the law could be fined a minimum of $500.
The proposal, also known as Initiative 29, was spearheaded by a non-profit group called Parents Against Underage Smartphone Use (PAUS), and was led by Denver anesthesiologist Tim Farnum.
“Eventually kids are going to get phones and join the world, and I think we all know that, but little children, there’s just no good that comes from that,” Farnum told Coloradoan.com, sharing that he experienced problems with his own children when they were given access to smartphones.
“(With smartphones), the internet is always begging for your attention. The apps are all designed to addict you…For children, it’s not a good thing,” he said.
The proposal comes as children continue to be introduced to and use mobile technology at an increasingly early age. One study, according to DailyMail.co.uk, has found that over half of all toddlers can use a tablet at the age of one, and 90 percent of them master the device by the time they turn two.
Studying hundreds of YouTube videos, researchers from the University of Iowa found that over 50 percent of toddlers between 12 to 17 months displayed a “moderate ability” to use a tablet. Researchers defined “moderate” as being able to use apps with help from an adult, but having some difficulty when it comes to basic day-to-day functions.
The researchers also found that by the time babies turned one, they interacted with the tablet in much the same way that adults do, using only their index finger as opposed to using both hands and fingers, as babies younger than one have been observed to do.
Experts have warned against introducing digital media to children at an early age. “Children under two years of age learn best from real-world experiences and interactions,” Carolyn James, a learning designer for Leapfrog Enterprises, told PBS Parents. “Each minute spent in front of a screen-based device is a minute when your child is not exploring the world and using their senses, which is extremely important in their development process.”
PBS Parents recommends that children be allowed to use smartphones to try educational programs and games under close supervision only after they enter preschool. At the same time, unsupervised use and ownership of smartphones should be held off until the child is between 11 to 13 years old, depending on when parents deem they are ready.
Ensuring good content and limiting screen time to no more than 30 minutes per sitting for younger kids, one hour per sitting for older kids, and two hours per sitting for teenagers was also suggested to ensure the healthy incorporation of video tech into kids’ daily activities.
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