18 Jan'18

Apple investors request for Apple to investigate the evidence that iPhones are linked to depression

Two Apple investors call for Apple to research the link between smartphones and teenage depression.


The two investors were Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement Systems  – their investment totalling to $2 billion – published a letter urging Apple to give parents ‘more tools and choices’ to benefit the ‘long-term health of its youngest customers’.


This letter was a result of a study conducted by the Centre on Media and Child Health and University of Alberta. The key findings were:


  • 67% of teachers surveyed (more than 2300) stated that the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is increasing
  • 75% believed that students’ ability to focus on educational classes has declined
  • 90% stated that number of students with emotional challenges has increased
  • 8th graders (UK equivalent to Year 9) who are heavy users of social media have a 27% higher risk of depression


The investors address the fact that some ‘may argue that the research is not definitive’. However, in the open letter, they argue that this would be missing the point; the point being that ‘78% of teens check their phones ta least hourly and 50% reported feeling addicted to their phones’.


They recognise that Apple have began to address this issue with the ‘limited set of parental controls’. Yet they present the argument that the current tools are not the most effective in their ‘all or nothing approach’ by only allowing for the phone to shut down or for full access.


In the open letter the investors put forward four methods Apple should employ to begin to address the issue. These include, research, new tools and options, education and reporting.


Although the letter is critical of Apple’s lack of action to protect their youngest customers, the investors are encouraging of Apple’s position as ‘one of the most innovative companies in the history of technology’ and their ability to pay attention to the ‘health and development of the next generation’.


In response, Apple listed the tools that are on offer for parents to control content on iSO devices. Ending with the statement ‘new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust’, as quoted by 9to5mac.


There are mixed opinions regarding Apple’s role to address the negative impact of technology on the younger generations’ lives.


Gregory Jantz, author or Ten Tips for Parenting the Smartphone Generation, told Tech News World ‘I don’t think it’s a fair expectation to expect Apple to deal with addition’.


Jantz adds, ‘Apple has done some great things with parental control on devices, but that’s not going to make them nonaddictive.’


Tony Fadell tweeted that Apple (and other big technologies companies) have ‘gotten so good at getting us to go for another click, another dopamine hit. They now have a responsibility & need to start helping us track & managed our digital addiction across all usages’.