Apple plans more features for parents to control kids' phone use

Dear Apple, worry more about children's mental health. Sincerely, California teachers

According to an open letter released Saturday (Jan. 6) by Apple investors JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the time has come for tech giants like Apple to take a direct and research-backed role in safeguarding the health of their youngest customers.

"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".

Give parents more ways to restrict children's access to their smartphones.

In response to concerned shareholders, Apple said they are "committed" to protecting their customers, especially kids, and have "new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make [parental control] tools even more robust".

"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", the company said on Tuesday.

Apple did not address the letter specifically, though in a statement it did say that as a company it puts deep thought into how its products are used and what impact they have, both on the people using them and those around them. In addition, 75% said students' ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.

The letter cites several key studies that link inappropriate or prolonged smartphone use to multiple adverse effects on children and teens. Smartphone addition is surging on Google trends, and research is showing when we're on more social media platforms, we experience more stress.

New technology has been likened to a dopamine hit.

Half of teenagers in the USA feel like they are addicted to their mobile phones and report feeling pressure to immediately respond to phone messages, according to a 2016 survey of children and their parents by Common Sense Media. Plenty of people are already talking about this on, where else, social media.

"What would be very helpful is a (feature) where we're not setting really strict limits as parents, we're not directly supervising them but they don't have total freedom either". At least among "passive" users, Facebook recently admitted it might not be the healthiest pastime. "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains".

But other investors pointed out that the habit-forming nature of gadgets and social media were precisely why the share prices of the so-called "FANG" group of shares - Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google - surged in value in 2017. It frequently pairs with Jana Partners on activist investing projects. However, Jana Partners and CalSTRS argued earlier this week that considering users' well-being is ultimately the best thing for Apple's bottom-line.



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