Apple, quit milking tech-addicted fruit of our loins – shareholders

Oh, won't someone PLEASE think of the children!

Music kid image via Shutterstock

Updated A group of Apple shareholders are asking the Cupertino idiot-tax collector to do more about getting kids to put down their iThings.

An open letter to Cook and Co from two Apple stockholders – JANA Partners and The California State Teachers' Retirement System – suggested the Silicon Valley giant plow some of its surplus billions into efforts to decrease young people's time spent in front of a screen.

"It is true that Apple’s customer satisfaction levels remain incredibly high, which is no surprise given the quality of its products. However, there is also a growing societal unease about whether at least some people are getting too much of a good thing when it comes to technology, which at some point is likely to impact even Apple," the letter, dated January 6, stated.

"In fact, even the original designers of the iPhone user interface and Apple’s current chief design officer have publicly worried about the iPhone’s potential for overuse, and there is no good reason why you should not address this issue proactively."

Professionals

The letter goes on to suggest Apple make amends by funding studies into technology overuse, and put together an advisory board of researchers and child development professionals that would help Apple design its parental controls to provide more choices for parents about how the device can be accessed by children in various age groups.

"Based on the best available research, enhancing mobile device software so that parents (if they wish) can implement changes so that their child or teenager is not being handed the same phone as a 40-year old, just as most products are made safer for younger users," the letter read.

"For example, the initial setup menu could be expanded so that, just as users choose a language and time zone, parents can enter the age of the user and be given age-appropriate setup options based on the best available research including limiting screen time, restricting use to certain hours, reducing the available number of social media sites, setting up parental monitoring, and many other options."

Such a policy may well have been met with approval by Apple's late cofounder Steve Jobs, who was said to have placed strict limits on screen time in his own home.

Back in 2014, Apple was fined $32.5m after its in-app purchase system was found to be letting kids spend their parents' money without asking for permission or confirmation.

While Apple is no doubt super seriously considering this shareholder memo, perhaps concerned parents could, oh, we dunno, try a little parenting? On the other hand, try prying a tablet or phone out of a tyke or teenager's hands, and see where that gets you. ®

Updated to add

Apple said it will improve parental controls in iOS in light of the shareholders' missive.

PS: Make sure you grab the latest updates for iOS and macOS High Sierra to mitigate the Meltdown and Spectre CPU security bugs. WebKit and Safari were updated today to ward off Spectre.

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