Apple found itself having to defend its parental controls on iPhone devices and other mobile gadgets after investors wrote an open letter criticizing the company's efforts. 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.
The open letter was written by Jana Partners LLC and The California State Teachers' Retirement System, the two of which collectively account for around $2 billion in value of Apple shares.
"As shareholders, we recognize your unique role in the history of innovation and the fact that Apple is one of the most valuable brand names in the world. In partnership with experts including Dr. Michael Rich, founding director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Professor Jean M. Twenge, psychologist at San Diego State University and author of the book iGen, we have reviewed the evidence and 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," the letter states.
The investors want Apple to play a "pioneering role" in parental controls and how they are implemented in mobile devices. To support their argument, the investors included several statistics in the open letter, including a study that found that 67 percent of over 2,300 teachers observed that more and more students are becoming distracted by digital technologies in the classroom.
"Professor Twenge’s research shows that U.S. teenagers who spend 3 hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely, and those who spend 5 hours or more are 71 percent more likely, to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than 1 hour," the letter states.
Apple did not address the letter specifically, though in a statement it did say that as a company it puts deep thought into how its products are used and what impact they have, both on the people using them and those around them.
"We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids," Apple said.
Apple also pointed to existing controls that allow parents to install and delete apps, put restrictions on in-app purchases, and regulate website access. In addition, Apple reiterated that it makes an effort to ensure its App Store is free from offensive material, and also clearly labeled so parents can easily identify what music and movies may or may not be appropriate for their kids.