Apple Urged To Do More To Protect Kids From Smartphone Addiction


In an open letter to Apple, the shareholders (who collectively own $2B of Apple shares) listed numerous studies linking cell phone obsession to feelings of addiction (particularly among teens) and criticized Apple for lacking the necessary mechanisms on their devices to help curb overuse.

Specifically, the company says that it plans extra features and enhancements for iOS parental controls.

Recently, a letter addressed to Apple's board of directors was sent by two shareholders, JANA Partners LLC and The California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS).

Two major Apple shareholders have urged the iPhone maker to face up to a "growing body of evidence" that smartphone addiction is harming children.

"By doing so, we believe Apple would once again be playing a pioneering role, this time by setting an example about the obligations of technology companies to their youngest customers", they declared.

"Apple has always looked out for kids, and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online", a spokeswoman said in a statement.

The company also revealed that it's planning new features to make its parental control tools "even more robust".

Asking Apple to help wean children and young adults off their products - or, better yet, to prevent them from getting addicted to smartphones in the first place - is somewhat like asking Chick-fil-a to make their fries less delicious, so customers will buy them less often. "As one of the most innovative companies in the history of technology, Apple can play a defining role in signalling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do". We want to ensure stakeholders and experts have a seat at the table as Apple develops these new tools and options moving forward.

Professor Twenge's research indicated that U.S. teenagers spending three or more hours a day on their mobile phones were 35% more likely to have a suicide risk factor than those who spend less than an hour.

Citing a study by Center on Media and Child Health and the University of Alberta, the letter states that digital technology use is linked to social and emotional problems among students.

Teachers don't think "addiction" is too strong of a word to use because there are mental, physical and emotional responses when kids are asked to put away their phones, Crim said.

JANA and CalSTRS proposed that Apple could begin by introducing an "expanded" setup menu where parents could key in the age of the iPhone user and the advisable time limit of smartphone use based on their time zones.