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Investors Challenge Apple: Make iPhones Safer for Kids

Kids Smart Phones
Kids Smart Phones

Growing concern about the influence of smart phones on children and teens has prompted two Apple investors to pressure the iPhone creator to take action.

The California State Teachers' Retirement Systems (CalSTRS) and New York-based Jana Partners LLC control about $2B worth of Apple shares.

On Monday they told the tech giant that it needs to take responsibility for how its product may be affecting young people.  

In a letter to Apple's board of directors they cite research showing that most kids get their first phone at age 10 and spend 4.5 hours a day on it, not including texting and talking. They also note that the social media sites for which the iPhone is a primary gateway "are usually designed to be as addictive and time consuming as possible."

The investors talk about a "growing societal unease" over smartphone use and cite research that shows middle schoolers who use social media heavily are at a higher risk for depression than their peers. They also highlighted surveys showing that many parents and teachers believe iPhone use is negatively impacting kids.

The goal, say the investors, is not banning the technology but helping parents help their children use it in an age-appropriate way.  

Their suggestions include convening an expert committee to facilitate collaboration between researchers and Apple's information resources.  

Also, the investors call for the development of research-informed software that would set age-appropriate limits on childrens' phones.

The investors explain: "Parents can enter the age of the user and be given age-appropriate set-up options based on the best available research including limiting screen time, restricting use to certain hours, reducing the available number of social media sites, setting up parental monitoring and many other options."

The investors believe that although current Apple customer satisfaction is high, increasing concerns about its impact on children could eventually negatively affect the company and that overuse issues should be addressed pro-actively now.

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