The California State Teachers' Retirement System and Jana Partners LLC that is based in New York sent an open letter to Apple urging the company to help parents and children fight addiction to their devices. Between these two large investors, they control over $2 billion in Apple’s stock.
The investors asked Apple to play a defining role in how technology use affects the next generation’s health and development. They requested that Apple take the lead in this effort by establishing a committee of experts that include child-development specialists. They want Apple to open up its large collection of information resources to researchers. Most importantly, they asked Apple to improve its mobile-device software to give parents more options regarding how they can protect their child’s health.
The Globe and Mail reported that childhood addiction to mobile devices is a serious problem. One research study of over 2,000 teachers in Alberta, Canada found that 67 percent of the teachers noted that digital distractions in the classroom are growing and 75 percent of the teachers said that their students’ abilities to focus on educational tasks have significantly reduced.
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Another study noted that heavy use of smartphones and social media among teens can contribute to depression among those children and may even lead to suicide in some case. Other researchers point out that it could be that troubled-teens are more likely to use smartphones and social media. More studies need to be done to determine cause and effect.
In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that to reduce the risks to teens, parents should establish both time and content limits. Some technology companies such as Facebook readily admit that they purposefully make their technology addictive to keep users’ attention for as much time as possible.
James Steyer, who is the CEO of the non-profit Common Sense Media, says that excessive use of smartphones is a public health concern. He complains that social media companies are designing their platforms to grab children’s attention at younger ages.
Jana’s participation in the letter to Apple is part of a strategic plan for the investment fund to support companies that are better corporate citizens. The team at Jana believes that more responsible companies make better long-term value for shareholders as well as for society as a whole. Apple has not yet responded to the letter.