Apple should do more to curb growing smartphone addiction among children, two major investors in the iPhone maker said Monday.
In an open letter to the technology giant, New York-based Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System highlighted increasing concern about the effects of gadgets and social media on youngsters.
“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,” the letter said.
The two investors collectively control $2 billion worth of Apple shares.
They urged Apple to offer more choices and tools to help children fight addiction to its devices — moves they said could benefit Apple and its shareholders in the future. Apple did not comment on the letter.
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The letter, reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, cited various studies and surveys on how the heavy usage of smartphones and social media negatively affects children’s mental and physical health. Examples include distractions by digital technologies in the classroom, a decreased ability of students to focus on educational tasks, and higher risks of suicide and depression.
Among the proposals: establish an expert committee including child development specialists; offer Apple’s vast information to researchers; and enhance mobile device software so parents have more options to protect their children’s health.
The broad range of research cited detailing the negative consequences of excessive smartphone use included:
– A study by the Center on Media and Child Health and the University of Alberta that found that 67% of the over 2,300 teachers surveyed observed that the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing and 75% say students’ ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.
– Research showing 8th graders who are heavy users of social media have a 27% higher risk of depression, while those who exceed the average time spent playing sports, hanging out with friends, or doing homework have a much lower risk.
– A study by UCLA researchers that showed that after five days at a device-free outdoor camp, children performed far better on tests for empathy than a control group.
– An American Psychological Association survey that found that of over 3,500 U.S. parents, 58% say they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health; 48% say regulating their child’s screen time is a “constant battle”; and 58% say they feel like their child is “attached” to their phone or tablet.
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