In this December 17, 2017, photo, a baby girl plays with a mobile phone while riding in a NY subway.
"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", stated Barry Rosenstein, Managing Partner of JANA Partners LLC, in an open letter to Apple on the weekend. They said that they also "think deeply" about how people utilize their products and how they impact the lives of people.
In an open letter to Apple, the shareholders (who collectively own $2B of Apple shares) listed numerous studies linking cell phone obsession to feelings of addiction (particularly among teens) and criticized Apple for lacking the necessary mechanisms on their devices to help curb overuse. At the same time, Apple said it constantly looks for ways to improve its devices, adding that new features are in the pipeline that will make its parental controls "even more robust", though the company did not get into specifics.
"We take this responsibility very seriously......"
Apple's announcement for change comes a day after a pair of shareholders argued that the company doesn't do enough to tackle phone addiction among young people and children.
In a statement late Monday, Apple said that its mobile software includes extensive parental controls governing different types of content and applications, noting that it started offering some of them as early as 2008.
Apple responded to the shareholders by saying the company is "committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids", according to a statement sent to CNNMoney. Another study found that young people who are addicted to their smartphones have an imbalance in brain chemicals that could lead to insomnia.
Professor Twenge's research indicated that United States teenagers spending three or more hours a day on their mobile phones were 35% more likely to have a suicide risk factor than those who spend less than an hour.
The letter reported that the average American teenager who uses a smartphone receives her first one at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it "excluding texting and talking".
Professor Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University and author of the book "iGen" reviewed evidence of smartphone addiction in partnership with JANA Partners, the California State Teachers' Retirement System and two Harvard-affiliated doctors.
He says if Apple has data that researchers could use in terms of health outcomes such as depression and suicide, that would be beneficial.