iPhones have made Apple and Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars, but now two major Apple investors have raised a campaign to combat youth phone addiction.
Jana Partners LLC and California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), which hold roughly $2 billion of Apple shares, sent a letter to Apple on Saturday in order to move the company to greater social responsibility. In the letter, they urge Apple to develop software tools that would allow parents to regulate their children's phone usage more easily. They also ask that the company study the effect of overuse on mental health.
Jana is more known for promoting financial changes on investees, so a social campaign is rather surprising. But the two investors who started this initiative believe that Apple's rising stock may be hurt in upcoming years if this matter goes unchecked. Rather, Jana and CalSTRS want the company to be proactive, generating goodwill and customer loyalty to Apple brands.
“Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do,” the shareholders wrote in the letter.
“There is a developing consensus around the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility,” Jana and CalSTRS noted, agreeing on what many would consider a potential public-health crisis.
Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, has already begun taking more social responsibility, such as in helping the U.S. economy, as he mentioned to the New York Times in an interview last year.
A prime example of this "moral responsibility" Apple is claiming is last year's software update, which incorporated a "do not disturb while driving" feature that enables an iPhone to detect when a user is behind the wheel and automatically silence all notifications.
In 2016, iPhones made up 43% of U.S. smartphones in use, according to comScore. An estimated 86 million Americans over 13-years-old own an iPhone.
Many investors are joining Jana and CalSTRS's campaign, including Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University, who wrote about the problem she calls the "iGen" which was previewed in an article in the Atlantic last fall, and Michael Rich of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, known as “the mediatrician” because his studies on media's impact on children.
The investors and fellow campaigners believe that cell phone time needs to be tailored to youths for the sake of their health, using Twenge's research of “unintentional negative side effects" as evidence. Included in Twenge's research are studies using concerns from teachers, which is one reason CalSTRS was enthusiastic about joining the campaign.
In an interview, Dr. Michael Rich prompts the public with this question, "How can we apply the same kind of public-health science to this that we do to, say, nutrition? We aren’t going to tell you never go to Mickey D’s, but we are going to tell you what a Big Mac will do and what broccoli will do.”