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Shareholders ask Apple to study impact of iPhone addiction on young users

A pair of major Apple shareholders have issued an open letter asking the company to study the impact of heavy smartphone use by children and teenagers, as well as offer more parental restrictions on iPhones.

The letter, shared online by Jana Partners and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, suggests that there's a "growing body of evidence" that for youth with more intense habits, smartphones "may be having unintentional negative consequences." The groups argue that "growing societal unease" could eventually affect Apple, and that stemming the problem now will aid the company's shares.

In terms of restrictions, the letter proposes modifying initial setup on an iPhone to let parents set an age and appropriate limits on screen time, hours of the day, and which social media services a child can access. Likewise, parents could be given options to monitor how an iPhone is used.

Other suggetions include tasking an executive with monitoring the issue and producing annual progress reports, much in the same way the company documents its labor, environmental, and diversity concerns.

iOS already offers some parental restrictions, but these mostly affect the ability of kids to buy apps, access "offensive" content, or use built-in features such as location sharing.

While smartphones were once seen as an expensive luxury aimed at businesspeople, they have increasingly become de facto for all ages in richer countries. Some apps, such as Snapchat and Instagram, have heavily relied on young users for their success.