Vermont bill would ban cell phones until age 21

Since Vermont is the home of socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I suppose it’s only natural that it’s also the source for one of the silliest, most pointless pieces of legislation proposed in recent memory. One member of the state senate has put forward a bill that would ban the possession of cell phones for anyone under the age of 21. Yes, you read that correctly. But the bill wasn’t proposed as a serious piece of legislation. The author is just trying to make a point. And it’s probably not even going to come up for a vote. (Times Argus)

A bill has been introduced in the state Senate that would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use or possess a cellphone.

The bill, S.212, would make such possession or use a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.

It said cellphone use while driving is one of the leading killers of teenagers. It also said young people use cellphones frequently to bully and threaten each other, something that has been linked to suicides.

The bill’s author, Sen. John Rodgers, says that cell phones are used to “radicalize and recruit terrorists, fascists, and other extremists.” They are also employed by mass shooters who want to research previous shootings. And if you’re not mature enough at age 18 to smoke cigarettes or purchase a firearm (both of which have a minimum age of 21 in Vermont), you shouldn’t be trusted with a cell phone either.

You have to read through most of Rodgers’ comments before realizing that he only introduced the bill to highlight a recent trend in Vermont governmental regulations. (He said he wouldn’t even vote for it himself.) Rodgers is a supporter of the Second Amendment and he’s trying to point out that the state is infantilizing people under the age of 21, to say nothing of depriving them of their Second Amendment rights.

Cell phones and “screen time” in general have clearly caused a lot of problems in modern society, but simply regulating them the way we do with alcohol wouldn’t be any sort of solution. But what Rodgers is pointing out is a question we’ve addressed here on multiple occasions. How old do you have to be in order to be considered an adult? You can enlist in the military and be sent off to war at 18. (Seventeen with parental permission.) You can get married and start a family. You can work a full-time job without needing parental consent. You can vote and help determine your own elected representatives and the leader of the free world.

But somehow, according to our government, you’re not mature enough to make decisions about smoking, drinking alcohol or (in some states) legally purchasing a firearm. The more I reflect on this question, the more I being to suspect that we’re approaching it from the wrong angle. Let’s face it… not everyone matures at the same rate. I’ve known some fifteen-year-olds who were working part-time, saving money and acting in a fairly responsible fashion. But there are plenty of 21-year-olds (and let’s be honest here… even some sixty-year-olds) who remain hopelessly immature.

So does that mean we should just eliminate all minimum age laws entirely? No, that’s not what I’m saying. We don’t need children in elementary school strolling into the convenience store and ordering a pack of Marlboros. Each state has to decide for themselves at what age you transition from being a child requiring parental guidance to an adult who is responsible for their own choices in life. But having settled on that age, it should just be the minimum age for everything we restrict children from doing. Should that include cell phones? Probably not, if only because that’s the fastest way to get help in an emergency. But there should probably be more options for parental controls on phones given to kids.