We see smartphones everywhere. In school hallways, at the family dinner table and plugged in at the bedside table. Smartphones, tablets and unfettered Internet access connect us to faraway corners of the world and make life all the more convenient.

But how young is too young for a Smart Phone?

One Colorado man has decided that age 13 seems like a good cutoff for a smart phone ban, and has proposed a ballot to make it a legal reality.

On a recent episode of All Things Legal, Craig Ashton and Tim Hodson took some time to discuss the proposed ballot. The details of the ballot calls for a complete ban of cell phones for youths younger than 13 in the State of Colorado.

In February, a Denver-area father Tim Farnum began drafting a ballot for a smart phone ban. If passed, would make Colorado the first state in the nation to establish legal limits on smartphones sales to children. Farnum’s proposal, ballot initiative no. 29, would ban the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13. More likely, it would limit rights to parents who intend to give the smartphone to kids in that age bracket. The ban would require retailers to ask customers the age of the primary smartphone user. It would ask smart phone retailers to submit monthly adherence reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

However, the question remains, is it possible for the State to obtain legal merit to dictate the constitutional liberties of smart phone ownership from a 13-year-old?

If the ballot passes, then the quick answer is yes. Under the 10th Amendment, the state reserves the right to powers not delegated by the Constitution. But the real question is, does this ballot have enough support to pass?

“If they are not your kids, how is it your business to decide whether or not they are responsible/mature enough to have a cell phone?” Tim Hudson says, “There should be no reason why the state needs to be involved”

The idea has also ruffled feathers across the state.

Colorado Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said he understands the reasoning behind the proposed law. However, he also believes it oversteps the government’s role in private family life.

“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” he said. “There have been different proposals out there regarding the internet and putting filters on websites that might put kids at risk. I think ultimately, this comes down to parents … making sure their kids are not putting themselves at risk.”

“I don’t think it’s the most effective way to deal with a real problem that our children spend too much time on the computer or too much time looking down at their phones,” Kefalas said.

Ashton and Price agree that a child’s access to smartphones is a parental responsibility. The proposed law is an encroachment on parental power. They also argue that the ballot will face many hurdles before it can pass.  “There has to be enough invested interest in the state to intervene,” says Craig Ashton, “Unless there is an argument that use of a smart device possesses a danger equivalent to other age restricted products, such as cigarettes or alcohol, the bill will have a hard time passing.”

While kids can be vulnerable to misuse of technology because they are still developing self-regulation skills and social skills. Skills which ultimately should be overlooked by the guidance of a parental figure. The proposed Colorado initiative may be overdoing it in terms of regulation.

Contact Ashton & Price, LLP

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