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- Apple has promised to make its devices safer for children after two of its biggest investors said they were concerned about the company’s role in child phone addiction.
- Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System published an open letter on Saturday that was addressed to Apple’s board of directors.
- Child phone addiction has been linked to poor performance in school, sleep deprivation, and even suicide.
Apple has promised to introduce new features and tools after two of its biggest investors said they wanted the company to address the issue of child phone addiction.
An Apple representative told Business Insider on Tuesday: “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 person added: “We have new features and enhancements planned for the future to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.”
Apple did not go into any detail about the exact nature of those new features and enhancements.
Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which reportedly own a combined $2 billion (£1.5 billion) stake in Apple, published an open letter on Saturday urging the Cupertino, California-based tech giant to set an example about the obligations of technology companies to their youngest customers.
“We have reviewed the evidence and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner,” the companies wrote.
“As a company that prides itself on values like inclusiveness, quality education, environmental protection, and supplier responsibility, Apple would also once again be showcasing the innovative spirit that made you the most valuable public company in the world.”
iPhones (and other devices) are making it difficult for students to stay focused at school, according to research touted in the letter. Other potentially negative impacts linked to phone addiction include a lack of sleep and depression.
Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University and author of the book “iGen,” found that US teenagers spending three hours a day or more on electronic devices were 35% more likely, and those spending five hours or more were 71% more likely, to have a risk factor for suicide than those spending less than one hour, according to the letter.
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Tony Fadell, the cocreator of the iPod and the iPhone, publicly criticized Apple on Monday, arguing that adults and children alike were slaves to their phones and social media.
Fadell was on the team that worked on the first iPhone and is one of the key inventors of the iPod. He went on to found the smart-thermostat firm Nest, which he sold to Google for $3.2 billion (£2.3 billion).
He wrote on Twitter: “Apple Watches, Google Phones, Facebook, Twitter – they’ve gotten so good at getting us to go for another click, another dopamine hit. They now have a responsibility & need to start helping us track & manage our digital addictions across all usages – phone, laptop, TV etc.”
He added that tech companies would probably face government regulation if they didn’t provide better tools for people to manage the time they spend with their devices.
Here is the full statement from Apple:
“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. We lead the industry by offering intuitive parental controls built right into the operating system.
“With today’s iOS devices, parents have the ability to control and restrict content including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features. Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.
“We began delivering these controls for iPhone in 2008 with the introduction of the App Store, building on what we’d learned from offering similar features for the Mac a few years before iPhone was introduced. We also have a long history of curating our content platforms to make sure they are free of offensive material, such as pornography, and clearly labeled so parents can determine if an app, movie or song is age-appropriate. Of course, we are constantly looking for ways to make our experiences better. We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.“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.”
Additional reporting by Shona Ghosh.