2 shareholders ask Apple to take action over kids’ smartphone addiction

Amid rising concerns over the adverse effects of smartphone use on the young generation’s mental health, two prominent shareholders of Apple have urged the iPhone maker to take immediate action to curb mobile device use among children. In an open letter to the multinational company, the two investors – Barry Rosenstein, managing partner, Jana Partners LLC and Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) – have asked Apple to provide parents with effective software tools and resources so that they can help their kids use the device “in an optimal manner.”

“As one of the most innovative companies in the history of technology, 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,” wrote Rosenstein and Sheehan. Together, Jana and CalSTRS hold shares worth nearly $2 billion in Apple’s current $898 billion market cap.

In the letter, the shareholders have referred to their association with child development experts studying harmful effects of electronic devices on children’s mental health. The letter also mentioned a research by San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge that indicated a higher risk of developing suicide tendency in American teens using electronic devices for three or more hours a day over their peers who used these devices for less than an hour a day.

The investors have challenged the business strategy of technology companies that ask parents to govern their kids’ device and social media use. They emphasize that parents alone cannot keep their children away from the social media and applications, especially when devices like iPhone and iPad are developed to be “as addictive and time-consuming as possible.”

The smartphone makers, as the duo suggests, acknowledge the addictiveness of these devices but do nothing about it. The two also believe that present parental control applications featured in the devices are ineffective. These features just ask the parents to bear full responsibility of their children’s smartphone use, which is “both unrealistic and a poor long-term business strategy,” according to the two shareholders. Furthermore, Jana and CalSTRS have recommended some measures, including releasing annual reports to ensure more transparency, allowing researchers the access to Apple’s information resources and creating a committee of child development experts.

Controlling smartphone use among children

According to the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent Americans had smartphones in 2015, witnessing an over two-fold increase from the previous findings (35 percent) in 2011. Smartphone ownership was highest (92 percent) among people aged 18-29 years. Further, 17 percent population in this age group was reported to be heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access, which is not a good sign for their health.

According to a study published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry (FIP), smartphone abuse can affect healthy habits and active involvement in adolescents, which, in turn, may lead to sleep deprivation and quality. Cellphone abuse may also increase the risk of developing problems like persistent fatigue, dryness, blurry vision, irritation and tactile illusions (sensation to have heard a ring or felt a vibration of a phone), and muscle pain, among others.

Road to recovery

It is important to adopt healthy practices to maintain optimum health. It may include staying active, eating healthy and avoiding excessive use of electronic gadgets and smartphones. At the same time, people showing signs of mental health problems should seek immediate help. The 24/7 Mental Health Helpline provides credible information about treatment centers in the United States. Reach out to us by calling at our helpline number (855) 653-8178 to know about 247 mental health treatment programs. You can also chat online for detailed information on the best 247 mental health treatment center in your vicinity.