Two institutional Apple investors recently wrote an open letter to the tech giant, requesting it study the health effects of its products on children.
Investment firm Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) together own about US $2 billion worth of Apple stock. The letter states that, on average, American girls get their first smartphone at age 10 and spend more than four hours using it each day—which doesn’t include time spent texting and making phone calls.
The letter refers to a study being conducted by the nonprofit Center on Media and Child Health and the University of Alberta, Canada. Some two thirds of the 2,300 teachers surveyed have reported that the number of Alberta students who are distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing. More than 85 percent of the teachers say the number of their students with emotional and social challenges has increased due to their smartphone usage.
“As more founders of big tech companies are acknowledging today, the days of just throwing technology out there and washing your hands of the potential impact are over,” Jana managing partner Barry Rosenstein told The New York Times.
Jana and CalSTRS suggested five steps that Apple can take: create a committee of experts to study the issue, conduct research, introduce new tools and options that could limit usage, teach parents how to make more informed decisions, and report on the findings.
Apple has not responded to the letter.
Jana and CalSTRS suggest that introducing those steps could actually increase demand for the company’s products. Because Apple’s business model does not rely on excessive use of its devices, the letter suggests, the company could find ways to encourage users to spend less time on them.
The letter recommends Apple make it easier for parents to limit their kids’ iPhone and iPad usage.
Tony Fadell, former senior vice president of the iPod division at Apple, responded on Twitter to the open letter. He asked tech companies to fix the device-addiction problem for people of all ages.
“Apple watches, Google phones, Facebook, Twitter—they’ve gotten so good at getting us to go for another click, another dopamine hit,” Fadell tweeted. “They now have a responsibility [and] need to start helping us track and manage our digital addictions across all usages.”
Do you think tech companies should take responsibility for the effects their devices have on children?