Investors Urge Apple to Do More to Protect Children From Smartphone Addiction [Updated]

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Apple should do more to reduce growing smartphone addiction among children, said two major investors on Monday (via USA Today). In an open letter to the tech giant, New York-based Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System wrote of their increasing concern about the effects of mobile devices and social media on youngsters, urging Apple to offer more tools and choices to help prevent harm.

"There is a developing consensus around the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility to an app designer, or more accurately to hundreds of app designers."
The letter cited several studies revealing the negative effects of smartphones and social media on children's mental and physical health. For example, one study found that 67 percent of over 2,300 teachers surveyed believe that the number of students who are negatively distracted by gadgets in the classroom is growing, while 75 percent say students' ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased. 

In another study, eighth graders who are heavy users of social media were shown to have a 27 percent higher risk of depression, compared to children who exceed the average time spent playing sports, socializing with friends, or doing homework, all of whom have a much lower risk.  

To counter the threat, the investors - who collectively control $2 billion worth of Apple shares - suggested that Apple set up an expert committee including child development specialists and make its information more available to researchers. The letter also proposed enhancing iOS and associated apps to give parents and guardians more resources to protect their children's wellbeing.
This is a complex issue and we hope that this is the start of a constructive and well-informed dialogue," said the partners. "As one of the most innovative companies in the history of technology, Apple can play a defining role in signaling 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."
Update: In a statement provided to The Wall Street Journal, Apple said that iOS devices offer extensive parental controls that allow parents to oversee the content and apps being used by children.
"We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them. We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids."
Apple also said that it makes sure the App Store is free from offensive material like pornography with clearly labeled apps that allow parents to find age-appropriate content. Apple also said that it is "constantly looking" for ways to improve its device and said new "even more robust" parental controls will come in the future.


Article Link: Investors Urge Apple to Do More to Protect Children From Smartphone Addiction [Updated]
 

JaySoul

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Jan 30, 2008
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If you see kids on smartphones and tablets nowadays, it's on some next level ****.

They are kids, they don't know the difference between responsible usage and addiction.

EDIT: I see many posts saying it is all down to the parents. Of course, parents have to be more responsible. But what about once the kid is older? Or out of sight? It could be to/from/at school. It could be on a sleepover. It could be "doing homework".

You can't police your child 24/7 or you end up like the recent Black Mirror episode "ArkAngel".

This is dialogue about enabling parents to remotely control limits on WiFi, data, certain app usage... Surely that's a good thing to talk about, especially when the MENTAL HEALTH OF CHILDREN is at stake.
 
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mlody

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Is this another "Caution; this drink it hot" type of nonsense?

Do you know how I control the social media for my 15 years old? She does not have social media because she does not need it. Few years ago when she asked for Instagram and Snapchat we let her use it under the conditions that she would not spend too much time on it. but she abused it and we deleted her accounts and blocked the iPhone to allow her to download any apps and restricted Safari. Same with her MacBook - problem solved and she is doing just fine without that garbage.
 

Wanted797

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Oct 28, 2011
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This is so true, I have noticed this also with adults. It has affected my family greatly. When we go to family gatherings everyone is on their phones and it seems like we don't talk much.
Yep. I remember when I was 16-18 my Mum getting annoyed at me for being on the computer to long or my first iPhone. Now I go somewhere and she’s the one staring at her phone while mine is being left.
 

radiology

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I agree that Apple should get involved, but the responsibility lies primarily on parents, and it all starts with iPads, not iPhone. Kids get hooked up first with the ipads, which parents use to distract them while they go about their own businesses. I’m a parent myself and I also do that, but I am constantly policing myself to prevent them from spending too much time with electronics.
 

Chupa Chupa

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Jul 16, 2002
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The problem here is that the phone is a mere vessel. These investor's are chasing the wrong suspect. They should be going after Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media apps.

But also, one of these investors is the CA state teacher's. If they are concerned they should organize seminars with PTAs to teach parent's how best to rein their kid's use of social media. Social media, like anything else, is fine in appropriate amounts -- even necessary to have a social life, but also unhealthy if it's the bulk of one's daily activities. Every generation has its "social media" type activity -- radio, comic book, tv, computers. It's up to parents (and to a smaller degree, teachers, to foster interest in diverse activities).

But the issue here is specific apps, not the phone itself. To put in more artificial controls is not the best way to teach kids to be responsible. Plus they'll just find a work around if there is a barrier.
 

OriginalAppleGuy

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Sep 25, 2016
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Figures it came out of California. It is the PARENTS responsibility to ensure their children do not adopt habits that are bad for their health or success in life. It is NOT the manufacturer of any products that can be "abused" to do anything about it. There are already parental controls available on said devices. Use them. Pay attention to what the kids are doing and maybe have an actual relationship with them.

As an investor in Apple, this is an asinine request.
 

Schwyz

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Apr 6, 2016
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Yes, it’s the parent’s job, but Apple should still add a Timelimit option to restrictions that parents could set.
 
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recoil80

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I agree that Apple should get involved, but the responsibility lies primarily on parents, and it all starts with iPads, not iPhone. Kids get hooked up first with the ipads, which parents use to distract them while they go about their own businesses. I’m a parent myself and I also do that, but I am constantly policing myself to prevent them from spending too much time with electronics.
My daughter is only 14 months old, she'd like to use the iPad but the only time I let them interact with it is when I make facetime calls with her grandparents. While the iPad is on the couch I see her looking for it frequently, but I always tell her "no, it is off now" and she quickly loses interest.
Many friends of mine call the iPad their "babysitter" and I don't want to end up like them. Their kids are too dependent on the iPad to have supper or to stay quiet in the car or on public transit.
I know it will be hard to stop her from using the iPad in the near future, eventually she'll find out how to unlock it and even if I put a longer passcode she'll get annoying until I'll unlock it. The key is to let the kids play with something useful, as an app developer I'm thinking of developing some sort of game, like a quiz, to let her use the iPad to learn something not just play with stupid games or watch videos on youtube.
 

nwcs

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It’s a complex problem and no one party can solve it. Throwing everything on the parent is not a solution because parents are out-maneuvered and out-spent by advertising and such. The controls on many smartphones are poorly implemented and documented and can be bypassed by clever children. And those who do set things up right are usually subverted by other children who act as “mules” for the addiction.

Throwing everything on Apple isn’t a solution because Apple can’t dictate what people do and not do. They can make it easier for parents to manage a device, though, and they do a fair job at that. More rests on the social media themselves as they are, at their very heart, a manipulative engine. It’s very carefully orchestrated to keep people on and engaged. The more people pour into it, the more it has to manipulate. Their entire revenue is based on getting people to stay on and engaged.

Still, in reality people have always been addicted to stupid things. It’s just easier and the people are lazier with it. Eventually something worse than social media will come up and this upcoming generation will look back longingly at when today’s social media was considered real interaction...
 

apolloa

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Time, because it rules EVERYTHING!
... but is it the responsibility of the platform maker to govern that...

or maybe it should be the kids *parents*?
Well studies are showing that IAPs and children are demonstrating traits similar to gambling addiction. So their is that.
And Parents won’t always be aware of this.

Hmm with this report though I guess anything that helps, I mean a lot of social skills are learnt through face to face interaction so we don’t want those lost. We’ll end up in a world like the film Surrogates.

If the investors are requesting this then it must be a bad situation.
 
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840quadra

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Parents can also help with some of this too. I could have become addicted to TV, Video games, DVDs, and “classic” computers had my parents let me.

Regardless, I think the tech change is already in the works. Smartphones are essentially now a mature market, Apple (like Samsung and others) is already working on the next shift in tech. Just will take a bit of time to see what catches hold, and then we can worry about additction to that too.