Parents Against Underage Smartphones
| Style over substance|
Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS) is a Colorado-based American non-profit lobbying group that advocates for restrictions on the sale and use of smart phones, based on claims that they harm children's social and emotional development. It was founded by Dr. Tim Farnum along with several medical professionals in February 2017.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Tim Farnum, a Denver-area anesthesiologist, said that while he "understands the intrigue of modern technology," he became convinced smartphones were harmful to children in 2016 after his two "once energetic and outgoing sons", ages 11 and 13,
hit puberty got smartphones and became moody, quiet and reclusive. According to him, they never left their bedrooms, and when he tried to take away the phones, one of his sons launched into a temper tantrum he compared to crack withdrawal.
After that little Trainspotting cameo, Farnum blasted smartphones as "addictive, harmful and dangerous in the hands of children," claiming that he found research proving that heavy technology use can impair brain development, hinder social skills, and discourage physical activity. His most controversial claim is that smartphone use is similar to drug addiction because enjoyable online experiences release dopamine in the brain (like all other enjoyable stimuli, from crack to eating a strawberry to hugging a friend), a position rejected by the American Psychiatric Association when they declined to add Internet Addiction Disorder to the DSM-V. These conclusions would be more convincing if the PAUS website or Farnum listed any sources to back them up.
To be fair, excessive use of smartphones and other electronics that grab one's attention is probably not healthy for children, and may adversely affect things like their attention spans. It doesn't necessarily follow however that prohibition of smartphones to youngsters is the appropriate solution. Certainly it doesn't help your case when you cite no sources to support your position.
A proposed ballot initiative
Farnum and other two doctors have proposed Ballot Measure 29, which would make it a crime for cellphone providers to sell smartphones to children under the age of 13. The ban would require retailers to ask customers the age of the primary user of the smartphone and submit monthly adherence reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The department would be responsible for maintaining a website portal for the reports and would investigate violations and collect penalties. The first violation would incur a written warning. A second would produce a $500 fine, and the amount would double with each subsequent incident.
The obvious flaw with this system is that a.) most kids get smartphones from their parents, since few 11-year-olds can pony up $500 for an iPhone, and b.) parents can lie to store employees. It also ignores the existence of Amazon.
While Farnum claims this proposal was met with "overwhelming support" from parents and grandparents who were concerned that too much technology could stunt imagination and appreciation for the outdoors, the bill has also drawn heavy criticism from parents who resent the government's intrusion into their families, a concern shared by both Democratic and Republican state senators. The spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Donald Shifrin, also opposes the bill, saying that parents should be responsible for setting rules and boundaries.
- PAUS About Us page. Listed directors include two individuals with DOs, one with an MD, and one with an RN.
- Pies, R. (2009). Should DSM-V Designate “Internet Addiction” a Mental Disorder? Psychiatry (Edgmont), 6(2), 31–37.
- 2017-18 Initiative 29 initial fiscal impact statement (PDF)
- Smartphones made his kids ‘moody’ and ‘withdrawn.’ Now he wants to ban them for preteens. Mettler, Kaite. Washington Post June 19, 2017.
- Should smartphones be banned for children under 13? http://theinstitute.ieee.org/ieee-roundup/blogs/blog/should-smartphones-be-banned-for-children-under-13
- Colorado dad aims to ban smartphone sales to preteens. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/19/health/colorado-preteen-smartphone-initiative/index.html