“It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact,” the letter reads, “or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally.”
This is an excerpt from a letter sent by two major Apple shareholders, JANA Partners and CalSTRS who represent over $2 billion worth of shares in the company.
These two shareholders are calling on Apple to do more to protect children.
“There is no good reason why you should not address this issue proactively,”
The group recommended some initial steps in it's letter:
- Expert Committee: Convening a committee of experts including child development specialists (we would recommend Dr. Rich and Professor Twenge be included) to help study this issue and monitor ongoing developments in technology, including how such developments are integrated into the lives of children and teenagers.
- Research: Partnering with these and other experts and offering your vast information resources to assist additional research efforts.
- New Tools and Options: Based on the best available research, enhancing mobile device software so that parents (if they wish) can implement changes so that their child or teenager is not being handed the same phone as a 40-year old, just as most products are made safer for younger users. For example, the initial setup menu could be expanded so that, just as users choose a language and time zone, parents can enter the age of the user and be given age-appropriate setup 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.
- Education: Explaining to parents why Apple is offering additional choices and the research that went into them, to help parents make more informed decisions.
- Reporting: Hiring or assigning a high-level executive to monitor this issue and issuing annual progress reports, just as Apple does for environmental and supply chain issues.
It's a good start. But as parents and consumers, we should demand more from Apple AND OURSELVES. It seems as if we've all been asleep at the wheel as we've let these devices, technologies and social platforms creep into every aspect of our lives.
License to Drive?
A friend of mine compared cell phones to the first automobiles. When cars just hit the scene there were no driver's licenses or rules of the road. There were just inexperienced people armed with a potentially dangerous machine. It took years for best practices, laws and regulations, and common sense to enter the scene. Even now we're still trying to figure out how to get people to behave behind the wheel (road rage, drunk driving, distracted driving etc.).
The stakes are high. When my now 15-year-old son was in 5th grade, he told me out of the blue that he felt like they were an experiment. His generation. No one knows how all of this technology would impact them in the long term. And the thing is, they all know it. We know it. It's like we've handed them all cocaine but asked them to be smart about it.
We know better. Apple knows better.
One of the quotes that often comes to my mind comes from an interview on Co.Design with Tony Fadell, one of the creators of the iPod:
“I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, what did we bring to the world?”
Tony Fadell’s wife likes to remind him when their three children’s eyes are glued to their screens that it’s at least partly his fault.
It's time for us all to peel our eyes away and begin to shift our attention back to real life.
What's our role as parents? What's Apple's role as the technology provider?
What do YOU think?
What else do you think should be done? What features and safeguards do you want from your devices? What rules and regulations do you think should be in place?
Tell us in the comments.
I'm working on a post with my laundry list of feature requests for families. Apple I hope you are listening!
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