Apple is defending itself this week after some of its largest shareholders went public with a request for the company to make technology that would empower more parents to control smartphone use among kids.
The high-profile open letter comes as there is heightened attention to child safety online. Just as tech companies develop more software designed to entice younger customers, the group of Apple investors wants to know the effect prolonged screen time is having on children’s developing brains.
Asked to do more on child safety, Apple says it has ‘always looked out for kids’
In the letter, the investors, led by California teacher pension investor CalSTRS and renowned investment firm Jana Partners, voiced strong concerns about Apple’s reach among children and how it can better equip parents to stem device addiction. “We have reviewed the evidence and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner,” it reads in part. “By doing so, we believe Apple would once again be playing a pioneering role, this time by setting an example about the obligations of technology companies to their youngest customers.”
Citing findings from studies, the group added: “Research shows that U.S. teenagers who spend 3 hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35% more likely, and those who spend 5 hours or more are 71% more likely, to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than 1 hour.”
Apple promises new parental controls for its devices
On Monday, Apple responded to the letter by pointing out that it has equipped parents with wide control over what their children hear and see on its devices. In a written statement sent to multiple outlets, Apple said it “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. We lead the industry by offering intuitive parental controls built right into the operating system.”
“With today’s iOS devices, parents have the ability to control and restrict content including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features. Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.”
The company said that in trying to make things even better for parents and children who use their products, “We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.”
With child safety in mind, we thought it’d be a good idea to give you some reminders on the topic.
3 online child safety tips to keep in mind
Beware of in-app purchases: Money expert Clark Howard says that apps either on your phone or tablet can be a gateway into debt for some parents. “Smartphones and tablets are great for keeping kids entertained on long road trips or in the carpool line. But there are some dangers to your wallet when your kids play with your gadgets,” he writes. “In-game app charges on kids’ games have become a real problem for parents. It’s not uncommon for parents to find their checking accounts or credit cards dinged for anywhere from $5 to $100 each time their children play ‘free’ games.”
Be an online chaperone: If you let your child chat online, be sure you know who the person on the other end is. Clark says to “Openly discuss ‘stranger danger’ with your kids, so they understand that not everyone is who they claim to be on the web.”
Be a hands-on parent: “There’s no substitute for hands-on parenting,” Clark says. If you’re really concerned about your child’s behavior when they’re on the computer, it might be time to log off and take a personal interest in them sans computer. There’s no better way to learn and earn the trust of your child — and vice versa.