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Apple investors urge action to curb child gadget addiction

Investors post open letter to Apple
Posted at 2:59 PM, Jan 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-08 17:59:37-05

Kids are increasingly addicted to smartphones and social media, and now some people are calling on Apple Inc. to do more to warn families and offer more tools and choices to help prevent harm.

The criticism comes in an open letter from two major investors in the Silicon Valley company responsible for inventing the iPhone.

Jana Partners, LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, which control about $2 billion of Apple shares, sent the letter to Apple on Saturday urging it to develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health.

The letter cites several studies showing the negative effects of smartphones on children's mental and physical health. 

One study, for instance, found that 67 percent of over 2,3000 surveyed teachers believe the number of kids negatively distracted by phones in the classroom is on the rise. And found that 75 percent of teachers noticed a worsening ability to focus on educational tasks.

The activist investor and the pension fund are saying the smartphone maker needs to respond to what they see as a growing public-health crisis of youth phone addiction, as part of Jana's push on certain companies to become better corporate citizens, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The letter calls on Apple to set up an expert committee that includes child development specialists, and proposes enhancing iOS and associated apps to give parents and guardians more resources to protect their children's wellbeing.

"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," say the investors in the letter. 

"There is a developing consensus around the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility to an app designer, or more accurately to hundreds of app designers," the investors add in the letter.