Vail Daily editorial: Proposed smartphone ban is extreme nanny-ism
Most people are usually half-joking when they see a problem and say, “There ought to be a law!” Denver-area dad Tim Farnum sees things a bit differently.
Farnum has done the legwork to get a ballot proposal ready for a signature drive. The idea is to ban the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13.
To be sure, there’s a downside to smartphones. Who hasn’t seen a zombie-like teen, face inches away from a phone screen, ignore virtually everything outside that screen’s boundaries? It’s not good.
And yes, modern teens in this country tend to spend too much time engrossed in their devices.
But cell phones are something of an essential of modern life, especially for kids in middle school and above. Those kids are often experiencing for the first time being without nearly-constant adult supervision in virtually every waking hour. Add in the fact that so many households have parents working hours beyond the school day, and keeping in touch with those kids can be difficult outside school hours.
That means kids have their own phones.
Since youngsters rarely have the financial ability to buy their own phones and plans, Farnum’s Initiative 29 would tell parents what they can and can’t buy for their children.
Again, there are good intentions behind this effort. A phone that can only call or text won’t become part of a pre-teen’s facial features. A “dumb” phone is also far less likely to be stolen.
But anytime something is banned, ways around the law arise. Do we really want to set up a black market in phones for kids?
Then there’s very serious matter of parents taking care of their own children. Banning a legal, useful product from use by pre-teens is Big Brother-ism of the first order, something that should make most of us shudder.
The argument will certainly be used that we require kids to wear helmets and seat belts. That’s different. There are clear, well-defined public-safety elements to smoking bans, minimum ages to buy alcohol and marijuana and requirements for seat belts or helmets while on the road.
Farnum’s proposal sounds like a good idea, based on the hope that the culture might end up with marginally fewer young knuckleheads if they’re kept away from technology for a few years.
But Initiative 29 is actually terrible public policy, giving over what should be parental discretion to the coarse, bumbling hands of the state.
Time will tell if Initiative 29 gathers the roughly 300,000 signatures needed to land a spot on the 2018 general election ballot.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.