Apple Should Address Youth Phone Addiction, Say Two Large Investors


"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", wrote Jana Partners and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which together own a $2 billion stake in Apple.

Two major Apple investors are calling on the tech giant to up their protections for kids and teens against becoming addicted to their iPhones. While he underscored that the ultimate responsibility for controlling children's phone use falls to parents, Apple should do more because it makes such a powerful product with heavy usage.

They point to research from Ms. Twenge and others about a "growing body of evidence" of "unintentional negative side effects", including studies showing concerns from teachers. They urged Apple to apply its knack for innovation to help protect the physical and mental health of its youngest users.

The letter cites studies that show American teenagers receive their first smartphone at the age of 10, and spends an average of 4.5 hours a day on it (excluding texting and talking times).

Creating a committee of child development experts to study the issue.

I call them iGen.

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The investors represent about $2 billion of AAPL share ownership, which is by no means insignificant. "Win-win both ethically & financially". Apple hasn't commented on the specifics of the letter, but in a statement the company pointed to controls that already exist that allow parents to install or delete apps, control in-app purchases and restrict access to certain websites.

Fadell also said that government regulations might be needed if these companies "don't step up". But that and similarly designed research can not rule out that already troubled teens may be more likely than others to be frequent users of smartphones and social media.

" 'Digital addictions, ' whether to social media, video games, texting, shopping or pornography, are not official mental disorders listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), and there's a debate among psychologists about whether that should change".

"There is a little known and seldom used tool which can limit the use and exposure children have to technology; they are called parents. And that intermittent reward is what hooks people".

Up until now, Apple has offered no guidelines for using its devices responsibly. With their letter to Apple, CalSTRS and Jana said are suggesting that an approach to all three of those areas could begin by focusing on just one of them.