Apple defends itself amid outcry over children's use of its smartphones

Apple pushed back on Wednesday against claims that it hasn’t done enough to protect children from the negative effects of smartphones after a pair of prominent investors called on the tech company to do more.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm said that it has been at the forefront of providing parents with the tools necessary to safeguard their children for many years—beginning in 2008—in a statement to Fox News.

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


Besides parental controls, which allow users to restrict what children can see and download, Apple also cited features like “Ask to Buy” in Family Sharing which sends a request goes to the organizer when a child initiates a purchase.

A attendee uses a new iPhone X during a presentation for the media in Beijing, China October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter - RC1BB5A3BB10

A user holds the iPhone X.  (Reuters)

In their open letter sent to Apple on Saturday, activist investor Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System had a range of suggestions for the company, including the establishment of an expert committee including child development specialists; offering Apple's vast information to researchers; and enhancing mobile device software so that parents have more options to protect their children's health.

The incident comes as Apple is under fire from users and lawmakers over its disclosure that it slows down the batteries of older iPhones.

Still, the company pushed back on the notion that it isn’t doing enough to protect children.


“With today’s iOS devices, parents have the ability to control and restrict content including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features,” Apple said in its statement to Fox News. “Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.”

An Apple sales associate speaks with a customer waiting to purchase a new iPhone X in New York, U.S., November 3, 2017.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RC1E691B9A00

An Apple sales associate speaks with a customer waiting to purchase a new iPhone X in New York, November 3, 2017.  (Reuters)

The company added it has forthcoming features and enhancements to give parents even more control.

Experts also believe that parents should step in and do more to teach their children about responsible use of technology, including popular apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. According to one study, 39 percent of children in the U.S. get their first social media account between the ages of 10 and 12. 

“Adults’ access to the smartphone is becoming more of a basic right, but for children I think of it as a privilege,” associate professor of information technology Yeslam Al-Saggaf told SBS News. “They should have access to it as a reward.”

He also suggested that children could be given access after they've played in the backyard, or played with other children “so they live as children," but that their access to technology should not be fully restricted, which would put them at a disadvantage in the long run.

Christopher Carbone is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.