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Apple should address child phone addiction, say investors

Apple's shareholders want the company to put measures in place to protect its youngest customers.

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A child plays on an iPhone.
Chesnot / Getty Images

Kids and iPhones -- are they a good mix? Two Apple shareholders aren't sure.

Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which together own a $2 billion stake in Apple, asked the company in an open letter, published Saturday, to address the issue of phone addiction among children.

The pair ask Apple to take a socially responsible approach to helping parents navigate the tricky waters of phone ownership among kids. "By doing so, we believe Apple would once again be playing a pioneering role, this time by setting an example about the obligations of technology companies to their youngest customers," said the two in their letter.

A 2016 report by social agency Influence Central said that the average age for children to get a phone was 10.3. Many manufacturers make cheaper and more basic entry-level phones aimed at children, but Apple products are still highly prized by children and teenagers.

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The investors point to the "growing body of evidence" that phone use among younger owners may be having "unintended negative consequences," including various mental health problems. They also suggest a number of measures for Apple to consider implementing, including setting up an expert committee, research, education and reporting findings and developments in the same way the company does for environmental and supply chain issues.

Another option could be to introduce new tools, such as a setup option to make the phone age appropriate. This could be activated by parents, they suggest, "so that their child or teenager is not being handed the same phone as a 40-year old."

Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.