Investors want Apple to protect kids from smartphone addiction

Apple is responding to concerns about how its products are used by kids

Apple is responding to concerns about how its products are used by kids

The shareholders encouraged Apple to improve its parental controls, too, since Apple's devices lack controls that can limit a child's use of a phone.

Limiting users' access to Apple's products and services might not seem like a good business decision for investors.

Though Tech Crunch claimed this "represents a tiny fraction of its current $898 billion market cap", they added that, "The letter is noteworthy, however, because both investors are influential activist shareholders", explaining that, "Jana Partners managing director Barry Rosenstein pushed Whole Foods to put itself up for sale before the grocery chain's acquisition by Amazon a year ago, while CalSTRS, which manages retirement benefits for public educators in California, is the second-largest public pension fund in the United States".

In the letter, Jana and CalSTRS said confronting the issue of smartphone addiction would, in the long run, enhance the value of the company for all shareholders.

Apple did not address the letter specifically, though in a statement it did say that as a company it puts deep thought into how its products are used and what impact they have, both on the people using them and those around them.

Children's distraction in the classroom has increased while their ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.

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From a study published back in November, social media exposure and overuse of smartphones are some of the major contributions to depression (apart from other suicidal traits) among youngsters and teens.

But that and similarly designed research can not rule out that already troubled teens may be more likely than others to be frequent users of smartphones and social media. "This does not mean, however, that there are not kids (or adults) that spend excessive time on the phone or who have difficulty disengaging from their phones", said Vasco Lopes, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University Medical Center in NY.

A handful of tech leaders have recently spoken out against the potential negative effects of social media and device usage on children.

"It's not the tools themselves that are the problem ― it is actually what we do with them", Rich said.

But other investors pointed out that the habit-forming nature of gadgets and social media were precisely why the share prices of the so-called "FANG" group of shares - Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google - surged in value in 2017. The letter was also signed by Anne Sheehan, Director of Corporate Governance for The California State Teachers' Retirement System. It frequently pairs with Jana Partners on activist investing projects.

CalSTRS and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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