Investors Urge Apple To Curb Childhood Social Media Addiction
In an age where technology is becoming intrinsically connected to every aspect of our lives, some are starting to grow concerned about the increasingly younger age at which we introduce our children to smart phones and gadgets – including two of Apple’s biggest investors.
In a Jan. 6 letter sent to Apple from investors Jana Partners and The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the shareholders expressed concern over childhood addiction to social media and electronic devices. The two groups urged Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help ensure that kids use the company’s products in an “optimal manner.”
The letter acknowledged the pervasiveness of Apple products among children and teenagers, and the unintentional negative consequences that may be coming from the omnipresence of social media in young people’s lives.
The letter likely comes in response to viral videos of a former Facebook vice president who has been vociferous in his regret for the role he played perpetuating social media’s impact on our society. A number of media outlets have posted videos of Chamath Palihapitiya, former VP for user growth at Facebook, for his comments stating that social media is destroying society with dopamine-driven feedback loops.
Jana Partners LLC, a hedge fund started by activist investor Barry Rosenstein, touts itself as being an actively engaged shareholder that specializes in event-driven investing. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System is the largest educator-only pension fund in the world that represents nearly a million public school educators. Together the two investors own a $2 billion stake in Apple.
The investors’ letter to Apple cited a number of statistics showing the negative impact that the role of social media and technology has on youth. It says that in the past 3 to 5 years since personal technology has entered the classroom, 90 percent of teachers said the number of students with emotional challenges has increased and 86 percent of teachers said that the number of students with social challenges has increased.
The letter also pointed to increased rates of depression, sleep deprivation, and suicide risk factors in children and teenagers spending significant time on social media and electronic devices.
In response, Apple has promised to introduce new features and tools to help parents and teachers curb the extensive use and addiction to these technologies.
New Tool May Help Solve the Teen Mental Health Crisis
As rates of mental health issues in teens reach epidemic proportions, a new intervention that reframes the way they view stressors shows great promise in improving both psychological and physiological health.
Given the exponentially growing mental health crisis among teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with several other medical organizations, recently declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.
While many societal factors are being implicated, researchers at the University of Rochester recently conducted a study that focused on the ordinary, day-to-day stresses that teens face, such as how they’re perceived by others.
Psychologist Jeremy Jamieson, who headed up the study, told the University of Rochester News Center, “For adolescents, social hierarchy, social comparisons, and peer evaluations have always been important, but now it’s there all the time… people are receiving a daily stream of likes, dislikes, and comments via social media, which makes for a constant state of social evaluation. it’s one of the most damaging things we’ve seen for adolescents.”
While these “social-evaluative stressors” can lead directly to depression and anxiety, it is how teens deal with them, experts say, that determines the psychological outcome.
While conventional thinking equates stress with something “bad,” Jamieson says, “stress is a normal and even defining feature of adolescence… for those of us who study processes and psychophysiology, stress is just any demand for change — it’s neither good nor bad.”