DENVER (CBS4) – There is a grassroots effort to stop the sale of smartphones to children under 13.

A group called Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS) is collecting signatures to get the initiative on the 2018 ballot.

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The group, headed by three doctors, a nurse and a medical student, believes smartphones are addictive, harmful and dangerous in the hands of children.

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When skating or scootering at Denver’s Skatepark at 20th and Little Raven streets, kids are texting, talking, or taking pictures. Few could imagine life without a smartphone.

“I’d probably be lost,” said one.

“Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, messaging, FaceTime, everything done,” said another.

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To Dr. Timothy Farnum, that is not a bad thing. Farnum is an anesthesiologist and Founder and President of Parents Against Underage Smartphones.

“We see this in the same light as maybe alcohol or cigarettes,” Farnum told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Farnum is the father of five children ages 19 to 11. He sees children constantly on smartphones as addiction to an electric pacifier.

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“The kids aren’t playing out there anymore,” Farnum said. “There are certain critical stages of development that are not happening.”

So PAUS is gathering signatures to get an initiative on the 2018 ballot that would prohibit the sale of smartphones to children under 13.

“I think that that’s not a bad idea,” said new mother Alisha Wilkins.

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But others at “The mama’hood” in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood say “no” to the initiative. Molly Mills has three daughters.

“I don’t disagree with the fact that it can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but I think that we need to teach responsibility,” said Mills.

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Eleven-year-old Ethan Farnum understands his father’s concern. But he says his phone was stolen and now he won’t get another until he turns 13.

Ethan had the following exchange with Walsh:

Walsh: But you are counting the months …

Ethan: Yes

Walsh: And the days …

Ethan: Yes

Walsh: You want that phone …

Ethan: Yes

The ballot initiative would fine retailers who sell smartphones to or for preteens after having been warned. Fines start at $500 and the maximum is $20,000. The Department of Revenue would handle the enforcement.

Additional Resources

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For more information visit pausamerica.com.