In an open letter sent earlier this week, two major Apple shareholders urged the company to do more to restrict the use of smartphones and tablets by children over concerns that the devices are too addictive.
"There is a growing body of evidence that, for at least some of the most frequent young users, this may be having unintentional negative consequences" on their health, said Jana Partners LLC and California State Teachers' Retirement System (Calstrs).
The "growing societal unease" over children’s overuse of smartphones is "at some point likely to impact even Apple," the letter warned.
More robust parental controls
Apple responded by saying that it plans to roll out new features to help parents manage their children’s use of its smartphones.
"Apple has always looked out for kids, and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online," an Apple representative said in a statement late Monday.
Devices made by the tech giant already include parental controls that allow parents to manage which apps and content their children can and cannot use. But the two shareholders say current parental control settings offer an “all or nothing” approach that should be improved upon.
In its response statement, Apple vowed to improve existing iOS parental controls in future updates.
"We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust,” the company added.
The open letter to Apple comes amidst growing concern over children’s overuse of smartphones, which experts say can even carry the hallmarks and health repercussions of addiction.
The letter cites several key studies that link inappropriate or prolonged smartphone use to multiple adverse effects on children and teens.
Addressing this issue now would enhance the value of Apple in the long-term for all shareholders, the two large shareholders contend.
“We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them,” Apple told The Wall Street Journal. “We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.