Two prominent investors urge Apple to take action and develop tools that could help protect children from using their iPhones too much.
According to a joint letter written by the two major shareholders, Apple CEO Tim Cook, should issue health warnings for children using iPhones, detailing the mental and social dangers associated with the overuse of smartphones.
The investors also claim that the addictive qualities of the iPhone (and smartphones in general) are contributing to to a public health crisis that is having serious social ramifications.
In an open letter to Apple and its board, the New York-based Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, wrote that the company had to offer more options and and practical tools to help fight addiction to its devices.
According to the influential investors Apple’s products could be producing ‘unintentional side effects’ if they continue to encourage people to be so attached to their phones.
A burning issue
While tech companies have in general not openly acknowledged that their gadgets may be addictive, Silicon Valley insiders have in recent months begun to admit that many of their products are being designed to keep users’ attention as long as possible.
Recent research found that US teenagers who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 per cent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than one hour. That risk increases to 71 per cent for those who spend five hours or more chained to their devices.
An Apple a day
At the heart of the the investors message is that they want Apple to change the way their operating systems work and interact with its younger users; allowing parents greater control to limit their children’s time spent on devices, and more research into the effect technology has on children. The letter also recommended installing an advisory board who could monitor the issue.
“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. “Apple can play a defining role in signaling 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.”
The two investors collectively control $2 billion worth of Apple shares according to recent reports.