Apple responds to concerns over ‘smartphone addiction’ in children

10 Jan 2018

Do parental controls need an overhaul? Image: Stratos Giannikos/Shutterstock

Apple has responded to an open letter published by two of its investors calling for the company to address smartphone addiction in young people.

Jana Partners and CalSTRS are two investors in Apple, controlling approximated $2bn worth of shares in the company.

Both entities recently published an open letter regarding their concerns over the negative impact smartphones could be having on children and teenagers.

The investors said that although Apple has a “unique role in the history of innovation”, the company could be doing more to help mitigate the risk of unhealthy levels of smartphone use in children.

Apple responds

In response, Apple said it “leads the industry” in terms of parental controls, having introduced them to the iPhone 10 years ago.

It added: “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 already allows parents and guardians to place some restrictions and controls over what their children have access to, including apps, films, songs, books and cellular data.

The spokesperson for Apple assured consumers that the company has “new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust”.

Call for positive change

The open letter from Jana Partners and CalSTRS cited several studies examining the detrimental effects of excessive smartphone use in young people, from poor mental health to a lack of focus in the classroom.

Both said that Apple should establish a committee of experts to examine the issue, and allow parents to block certain social media channels, set a user age on devices from the outset and introduce limited screen-time options.

They implored Apple to wield its power to make a positive change. “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.”

There has been much discussion lately on the topic of technology’s impact on children, from social media sites such as Instagram affecting self-esteem to the recent revelations about inappropriate content geared towards children available to view on YouTube’s massive platform.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects