Apple should address youth phone addiction, say two large investors

Apple should address youth phone addiction, say two large investors

After two prominent shareholder groups wrote a letter asking Apple to play a larger role in addressing smartphone addiction among youth, the iPhone maker has responded.

The open letter reflects growing concerns on the long-term impact of technology such as smartphones and social media on children.

The Apple iPhone is far and away the most popular mobile device among teens - too popular, in fact, according to two of the company's investors who are calling on the company to study its "unintentional negative consequences". "It is the first instance of a big Wall Street activist seeking to profit from the kind of social-responsibility campaign typically associated with a small fringe of investors", David Benoit reports for the Wall Street Journal. But as smartphones become ubiquitous, government leaders and Silicon Valley have wrestled for ways to limit their inherent intrusiveness.

School Wellness Coordinator for the Missoula City County Health Department's "Let's Move" Program, Mary McCourt, said children and their smartphones are nearly inseparable. Meanwhile, Android co-founder Andy Rubin is seeking to apply artificial intelligence to phones so that they perform relatively routine tasks without needing to be physically handled. Restrictions can also be placed on access to some apps, content and data usage.

Apple already offers some parental controls, such as the Ask to Buy feature, which requires parental approval to buy goods and services.

Two big investors sent a letter to Apple this weekend imploring the biggest USA company by market value to consider how technology affects children's wellbeing.

While iOS parental controls can limit screen time and more, at the end of the day it comes down to parents educating and controlling the exposure their children have to devices. It also wants Apple to assign a high-profile executive to the case and release annual progress reports.

The activist pressure is the latest in a series of challenges for the tech giant.

The company noted it started bringing parental controls to the iPhone back in 2008 when the App Store was born, adding to similar features made available to the Mac a few years before the iPhone was launched. At the tail end of 2017, the company apologized to customers for software changes that caused older versions of its iPhones to run slower than newly introduced editions.

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