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Are smartphones the latest addiction to keep your kids away from?


Apple says it's taking action after two investors published an open letter, calling on the tech giant to take steps to protect children and teens from the "unintentional negative consequences" of using smartphones.

“We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them,” Apple said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. "We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”

The tech giant told the Wall Street Journal that it will add even "more robust" safety features to its smartphones.

In the letter to Apple, investors JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, pointed to various studies that suggest smartphone addiction in children and teens can lead to a higher risk of depression, suicide and sleep deprivation.

"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 letter read.

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Dr. Louis Kraus, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said that the biggest problem associated with kids using smartphones is that it can hinder their social development.

"Once you missed periods of social development, you can't come back and make them up," he explained. "And these phones are causing there to be a change in regards to social development of children. And we don't have a full understanding of how that's going to impact them."

According to a 2017 American Psychological Association (APA) report, "Stress in America: Coping with Change," of the more than 3,500 parents surveyed, 58 percent reported feeling "feeling like their child is attached to their phone or tablet."

In addition, 94 percent of parents said they've taken steps to limit their child's technology use during the school year.

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But the letter from Apple's investors argued that parents shouldn't have to battle their child's smartphone addiction alone. Instead, investors suggested that the company partner with parents to protect the health and well-being of the next generation.

JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System also suggested that Apple establish a committee to help study this issue.

Beyond monitoring the issue, the investors offered up a few ways for Apple to take action right away.

For example, the letter suggests that Apple expand its initial setup menu so parents can "enter the age of the user and be given age-appropriate setup options based on the best available research including limiting screen time, restricting use to certain hours, reducing the available number of social media sites, setting up parental monitoring and many other options."

Apple has not said when it will roll out its more "robust" parental controls.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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