Law wants to treat iPhones like cigarettes

Law wants to treat iPhones like cigarettes

CultureAugust 28, 2017 By Reilly Capps

How to get your fix if you're a kid:

Get a fake ID.

Hey Mister a stranger.

Go over to the next state, where the laws aren't so strict.

Are we talking about booze? Cigarettes? R-rated movies?

Nope. Smartphones.

In the near future, minors may need to prove they're 13 or older to buy a smartphone. And if mom wants to buy it for them, she'll have to lie to the sales clerk about it.

That's the plan of a Colorado-based group of doctors, parents and teachers. They've drafted a law that would allow voters to decide whether restricting access to smartphones to kids is a good idea, just like the country restricts access to cars, lottery tickets and weed. The group is called PAUS — Parents Against Underage Smartphones — and it says it's now expanding into 11 states, mostly in the southwest.

Succeeding is a long shot, since the group is short on money and lobbyists. But interest is intense across the country, with news coverage in USA Today, Slate, FoxNews and CNN.

Dr. Michael Cheng, a child psychiatrist in Ottawa who supports the ban, agrees smartphones are a vice kids should be protected from. In fact, he says it's more important to ban kids from owning a Samsung Note or an iPhone than banning them from buying Menthols or Smirnoff Ice.

"Their number one biggest addiction now is devices," said Cheng. Cheng says smartphones are, in fact, a lot like drugs. They give kids' brains too much dopamine and adrenaline — just like meth and Ritalin.. Meanwhile, Cheng says, kids need oxytocin, a brain chemical someone gets from puppy dogs kisses and mommy cuddles.

Now, kids get high on screens 7 hours a day. Screen time, once called "electronic cocaine" by one doctor, literally scrambles kids' brains.

"We ban things (like drugs) because kids' brains are still developing," Cheng said. "They're addictive by nature, and kids are not able to control themselves."

Anyone who's been around them knows that prying their fingers off smartphones is like pulling a dope fiend off his spoon. And when kids own personal screens, parents aren't the dealers anymore.

How bad have things gotten? Chinese state media blames smartphones for a decline in military readiness, saying that kids are "too fat and masturbate too much to pass army fitness tests." The Atlantic magazine this month asks, "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"

"Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy," says the article. "There’s not a single exception."

"People aren't experiencing things anymore," a high school principal told the Denver Post, "because we're too focused on taking selfies and not being in the moment."

Dr. Cheng says that, as kids get ripped on digital heroin, it's creating "a nation of zombies who don't have social skills."

To be clear, if the law passes, kids won't be banned from using smartphones, and roving cops won't hand out tickets to kids playing Pok√©mon. They will still be able to own cellphones with GPS that let them communicate in emergencies. It will just be illegal for them to exclusively own phones.

"We see this issue in the same light as alcohol," says the website for PAUS. "It is a parent's 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."

Even if the law doesn't pass, yanking cell phones out of kids' hands like a red-hot crack pipe is becoming a national obsession. There's Yondr, a locking bag schools are using to seal up the kids phones while school is in session, just like they keep the Ritalin in the nurse's office. The biggest tech bosses, like Steve Jobs, tend not to let their kids look at too many screens.

If more parents follow Jobs's lead, and vote to bar kids from smartphones, the days might not be too far away when you'll see kids passing around a Galaxy like a joint, huddling behind a dumpster glaring at the Nexus 6, and hovering outside the Verizon store, pestering bums to buy them one sweet hit of that new iPhone.