It’s not often that business matters intersect so directly with ethical discussions, but activist hedge fund JANA Partners wrote a letter to Apple with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Caltstrs) earlier this year asking them to become more directly involved in efforts to protect children from the potentially harmful effects of technology and screen time. The letter was called “Think Differently About Kids” as is open to the public.
Together, the two funds hold around $2 billion in Apple shares. They called upon Apple, one of the “most valuable brand names in the world”, to “offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner. 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.”
Th letter, written by JANA managing partner Barry Rosenstein and Calstrs head of corporate governance Anne Sheehan, claimed “it would defy common sense to argue this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact, or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally.”
The letter goes on the explain the various impacts that screen time has on kids, including a decrease in focus, increased suicide risk, sleep deprivation, and decreased empathy, among others.
“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.
Apple issued a statement, but did not directly address the letter. “We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them,” they said. “We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”