Apple is perhaps one of the world's leading tech companies not only in profit but in popularity. So much so that that term "phone" is interchangeable with "iPhone." It's the single most popular handset in the world and has made both Apple and Wall Street billions.
But at what cost?
Investors To Apple: Think About Mental Health
Jana Partners LLC along with the California State Teachers' Retirement System, both of which control around $2 billion in Apple shares, penned a letter addressed to the company on Saturday, Jan. 6, urging it to create software tools that would allow parents some form of control over their children's smartphone usage. They also urged Apple to study the effects of excessive smartphone exposure to kids' mental health.
Parental Controls On iPhone
Presently, the iPhone does feature a set of parental controls that help guardians set limitations or block kids from accessing certain apps or features. But the pair of investors wants Apple to do more, as they believe that both the content and exposure time on smartphones need to be tailored to appropriate levels for youth.
They referenced research from people such as Jean M. Twenge, author of over 130 scientific publications, about a growing body of evidence pointing to unintentional negative side effects of smartphone usage. Twenge wrote a book called iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, published in August 2017. She also wrote a piece for The Atlantic more recently in September about the "iGen" culture.
"I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet," she wrote, arguing that phones play a central role in skyrocketing depression rates among youth nowadays.
"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 investors said in their open letter.
Smartphone Addiction Among Children
Smartphone obsession among teens has sparked a debate among parents and academics. Some have raised concerns about the effects of phones to kids' mental health development, especially as they continue to replace or at least interfere with real forms of intimacy. But it is just part of a much bigger parcel: the effects of social media and technology in society.
Apple hasn't offered any guidance to parents on the proper usage of iPhone that's appropriate to maintain a healthy mental state. This despite the growing evidence of smartphones playing a key role in degrading mental health stability. Hopefully that changes soon.