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Two Of Apple’s Largest Shareholders Pen Letter Warning Of “iPhone Addition” In Kids, Cite Suicide And Health Risks

Two of Apple’s largest shareholders penned a letter over the weekend calling for the Cupertino, CA maker of iPhones to address what they view as a growing public-health crisis among children; iPhone addition.

Ordinary kids sitting with mobile devices in street

Activist hedge fund Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) – which control some $2 billion worth of Apple shares, urged the company to develop new software solutions to help parents control and limit phone use, as well as study the mental health impacts of overuse:

“As a company that prides itself on values like inclusiveness, quality education, environmental protection, and supplier responsibility, Apple would also once again be showcasing the innovative spirit that made you the most valuable public company in the world.  In fact, we believe that addressing this issue now will enhance long-term value for all shareholders, by creating more choices and options for your customers today and helping to protect the next generation of leaders, innovators, and customers tomorrow.”

Jana and CalSTRS go on to highlight a series of studies suggesting Apple products are literally killing the kids who use them, and can result in physical ailments and depression from lack of exercise…

A study conducted recently by the Center on Media and Child Health and the University of Alberta found that 67% of the over 2,300 teachers surveyed observed that the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing and 75% say students’ ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased. In the past 3 to 5 years since personal technologies have entered the classroom, 90% stated that the number of students with emotional challenges has increased and 86% said the number with social challenges has increased.  One junior high teacher noted that, “I see youth who used to go outside at lunch break and engage in physical activity and socialization.  Today, many of our students sit all lunch hour and play on their personal devices.

Professor Twenge’s 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.

This research also shows that 8th graders who are heavy users of social media have a 27% higher risk of depression, while those who exceed the average time spent playing sports, hanging out with friends in person, or doing homework have a significantly lower risk.  Experiencing depression as a teenager significantly increases the risk of becoming depressed again later in life.

Also, teens who spend 5 or more hours a day (versus less than 1) on electronic devices are 51% more likely to get less than 7 hours of sleep (versus the recommended 9).  Sleep deprivation is linked to long-term issues like weight gain and high blood pressure.

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey of over 3,500 U.S. parents, 58% say they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health, 48% say that regulating their child’s screen time is a “constant battle,” and 58% say they feel like their child is “attached” to their phone or tablet.

Facebook Exec Comes To Jesus

The Apple activists aren’t the only ones concerned over the kids… A few weeks ago, a Facebook executive whose job it was to metaphorically hook the world on “internet crack,” called on people to take a “hard break” from Facebook, which he believes is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.

Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya joined Facebook in 2007 and rose to its VP for user growth. He says he feels “tremendous guilt” for his role in building the social media giant, warning people “if you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you).”

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.  No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

Watch here (23:40 relevant portion)

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  1. Cricket

    Smart phones in the hands of American children are as dangerous a threat as opium was to Chinese society in the 18th and 19th centuries. They should be banned from schools, but I fear that there is too much money behind this industry.

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  2. sarcrilege

    Too late. Cat/bag, toothpaste/tube, worms/can, whatever. Too late.

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  3. indie

    I don’t let my kids near my phone.

    The whole “they need to know/learn how to use them” argument is a fallacy. These are made to be used by a monkey within the hour. My mom knows how to use her iphone. She still has to call me to use the tivo system…

    Kids don’t need iphone. Only parents need kids with iphones…

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