Seaton: When Smartphones Kill

Yale Law professor Stephen Carter counsels his first year students with the following wisdom: never support a law you aren’t willing to kill to enforce. Apparently Timothy J. Farnum, a Colorado area doctor, is ready to kill if it means retailers don’t sell smartphones to minors.

“One of my sons, I took [his smartphone] away, and it was a pretty dramatic, very violent outburst,” said Dr. Timothy J. Farnum, a father of five who is an anesthesiologist by training. “He was very addicted to this little machine. It kind of scared me, and that’s really how it started.”

By “it,” Dr. Farnum means “Parents Against Underage Smartphones,” his 501(c)(4) political action group dedicated to stopping smartphones from reaching the hands of preteen children. The group’s mission, according to their website, is stemming the tide of “easy nonstop internet access for children disguised as progress.”

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. This is why we believe that only through legislation led by us parents can we begin to shift the discussion not from if a child should own a smartphone, but how can we introduce the technology that they will be masters of as adults, without short circuiting their healthy natural development?    

In clearer form, Dr. Farnum and PAUS are saying they’ve tapped out as parents, it’s impossible for them to keep their kiddos away from the devil devices stunting childhood growth, and it’s time for government to step in. Worse yet, Farnum and PAUS are ginning up enough hysteria to pass legislation banning smartphone sales to minors.

Initiative #29, if passed, would require retailers selling smartphones to verbally inquire about the age of the person who would own the device. If that person is under thirteen, the retailer cannot complete the sale. Even if the preteen’s parent is in the store, says it’s okay, and has the cash to buy little Jimmy’s iPhone X, the sale may not take place.

Each inquiry must be recorded and reported monthly to the Colorado Department of Revenue, along with the type of device intended for purchase. The retailer has the privilege of paying the Department of Revenue a monthly filing fee to access a portal set for these documents.

If your twelve-year-old gets a smartphone, the retailer gets a warning for the first violation. After that it’s a five hundred dollar fine for the second, with the fines doubling after every violation. Fear not! If you’re a local cellular merchant, you have an affirmative defense handy.

You just have to adopt and enforce a policy telling all your employees not to sell smartphones to kids, that photo ID need to be seen before making the sale, and punishing employees who didn’t comply with your standards. And your policy has to be okay with an officer from the Department of Revenue.

If you’re a parent worried that a bill like Initiative #29 would stop your kid from getting a cell phone so you could call or text them, don’t worry too much. Nothing’s stopping them from getting a phone with voice, texting, or even GPS capabilities. So what, pray tell, is the devious device worth keeping out of a minor’s hands? Let’s check the legislative text to find out.

(1) “SMARTPHONE” IS DEFINED AS IT IS UNDERSTOOD IN COMMON MODERN ENGLISH. THE INITIAL MODEL BEING THE iPHONE, INTRODUCED IN 2007. ANY HAND HELD DEVICE WITH MOBILE INTERNET CONNECTIVITY, OR MOBILE DATA CONNECTIVITY. FURTHER DEFINED AS: A MOBILE PHONE THAT PERFORMS MANY OF THE FUNCTIONS OF A PERSONAL COMPUTER, TYPICALLY HAVING A TOUCHSCREEN INTERFACE, MOBILE INTERNET ACCESS, AND AN OPERATING SYSTEM CAPABLE OF RUNNING DOWNLOADED APPLICATIONS.

So unless you’re ready to give little Jimmy a Jitterbug Flip, you’re pretty much screwed.

This is a bad law, crafted by someone who never took H.L. Mencken’s words to heart. It fails to take into account there will be someone out there who, in objection to the law, sells a parent an iPhone X to give to their kid. When that retailer doesn’t pay the required fines, it will be Colorado Police, not Department of Revenue agents, sent in to shake down the retailer.

And it will be a Colorado police officer who shoots a phone merchant for failure to comply.

Dr. Farnum and his colleagues on the Board of Directors, many with medical degrees of their own, seem to forget the whole “Do No Harm” wing of the Hippocratic Oath. They also in their own minds know their voices are the right voices when it comes to giving kids smartphones, because they collectively decided they know better than you how to raise your kids.

Because, according to PAUS, smartphones are as addictive as alcohol and should be treated as such.

[We] see this issue in the same light as alcohol.  It is a parents right to give a child a small glass of wine with dinner, but it is not acceptable to have children walk into liquor stores and purchase alcohol, nor is it acceptable for parents to get their children drunk.

Except the two issues are remarkably different, and Colorado’s laws on underage drinking treat the issue as such. But Dr. Farnum and his cohorts at PAUS would rather the State mandate when, where and how you give your kids access to smart devices instead of you relying on your own judgment and parenting skills.

And they’ll gladly let a cop shoot a smartphone vendor in the process.

*Attempts to reach anyone at PAUS prior to publication were not returned.

12 comments on “Seaton: When Smartphones Kill

  1. Beth

    “…they collectively decided they know better than you how to raise your kids.”

    Yet Farnum seemed to have no clue how to be a parent to his own son.

    Some people should not breed.

    1. SHG

      Ever notice how some people externalize their own failings, blame it on some extrinsic source and thus relieve themselves of responsibility for their own shame and failure? Seems to happen a lot these days.

    2. DaveL

      I’m sure that his son’s extreme reaction to having his smartphone taken away is completely due to the inherent evil of smartphones, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact he inherited half his genes from a raving spazz.

  2. Ross

    Well, that’s the funniest, and scariest, proposed legislative declaration I’ve read in…forever. I wonder what drunk baboon came up with phrases like “THE UNMENTIONABLE STARK DEPRAVITY OF THE DANGERS”. If I didn’t know better, I would think I was reading a piece in The Onion, which is one reason this is scary. A prime example of “it’s for teh children” gone entirely insane.

    There’s no definition of own in the proposal either, and the way own is used doesn’t mean what Dr. Farnum et al think it does, which is primary user. The end effect is to impose extra work on the retailers and the potential for them getting shot, while doing nothing to further Farnum’s goals. Totally awesome.

    1. CLS

      Your last point is why I made an effort to reach out to PAUS before posting this. Anyone proposing asinine legislation that will get nowhere except killing a smartphone merchant trying to make sakes numbers for the month deserves a chance to explain themselves.

      Unfortunately whoever helms the PAUS Google Voice line doesn’t like answering calls or returning messages.

      1. Charles

        I’m assuming they meant to prohibit an underage “intended primary user,” not an underage “intended primary owner,” because the parent always could retain ownership and only give it to the child to use. Bad laws written badly (poor word choice intended).

        P.S. Of course they didn’t answer! The line must go to a smartphone that has been placed in a Faraday cage to prevent any radio signals from reaching it.

  3. kushiro

    I’m pretty sure THE UNMENTIONABLE STARK DEPRAVITY OF THE DANGERS is the sequel to The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was a bit of a jarring shift in tone, to say the least.

  4. Terry Roberts

    Is anyone here old enough to remember when that evil person known as Elvis Presley shook his hips on Ed Sullivan? Did you lose your mind as was predicted?

      1. Billy Bob

        Does anyone remember when Bob Dylan advised us not to trust anyone over forty? Fast Forward: Now some of us are well over forty,… and don’t trust anyone under. (Or over, for that matter. Go figure!) Finally, shaking of hips does not bother us as much as flapping of lips, which some of our Congress people are pretty good at, not to mention justices of the piece–the peace which greases their palms.

  5. Matthew S Wideman

    “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky”. Mark Twain.

    Truer words have never beens spoken unless Mr. Farnum calls his PAC “Lazy parents for unnecessary prohibition”.

  6. Igor Kaplunov

    I remember this kind of thing happening with my own parents. If I had any emotional reaction to restricted computer access then clearly it was because the computer was affecting me negatively. Never mind that the lack of access to any media was making me left out of modern day society. Witnessing this kind of egotistical child abuse still makes me angry to this day.

Comments are closed.