Two of Apple’s institutional shareholders have published an open letter calling for the company to do more to tackle the problem of smartphone addiction. Especially with regard to how it affects younger iPhone users. And while Apple could ignore this letter, it would be risky to do so.

Smartphones are addictive. They offer myriad ways to be entertained, whether via mobile gaming, social networking, or just scouring the web. And yet young children are being handed smartphones and given carte blanche to use them as and when they want. This is dangerous.

Help Parents Help Their Kids

Institutional shareholders JANA Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) have published an open letter calling on Apple to stop the minds of our youngsters being turned to rot by technology, I’m paraphrasing, of course, but this isn’t far from the truth.

In the open letter, the shareholders state, “we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner.” Which would be “setting an example about the obligations of technology companies to their youngest customers.”

The letter then highlights the “unintentional negative consequences” Apple products may be having on “the most frequent young users.” These include developing emotional and social challenges, increasing instances of depression and the risk of suicide, and sleep deprivation. None of which should be what any of us want for our children.

So, what should Apple do? The investors suggest Apple’s parental controls “dictate a more binary, all or nothing approach, with parental options limited largely to shutting down or allowing full access to various tools and functions.” So there should be an expert committee convened, more research undertaken, new tools and options for parents, education, and reporting.

Apple Should Heed This Advice

Apple has yet to respond, but, like all public companies, Apple is beholden to its shareholders. So when shareholders who hold billions of dollars worth of shares speak, Apple should listen. Especially when what these shareholders are saying is eminently sensible and rather important.

Are you an Apple shareholder? If so, how do you feel about this open letter calling on Apple to tackle smartphone addiction? Do you think Apple is at least partly responsible? Or should this all be pinned on the parents of addicted youngsters? Please let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: R. Nial Bradshaw via Flickr


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