Earlier this week Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, two Apple shareholder groups, posted an open letter to Apple asking for more and better parental controls for iPhone.
More than 10 years after the iPhone’s release, it is a cliché to point out the ubiquity of Apple’s devices among children and teenagers, as well as the attendant growth in social media use by this group. What is less well known is that there is a growing body of evidence that, for at least some of the most frequent young users, this may be having unintentional negative consequences:
In regards to parental controls in general, Apple provided me with the following statement:
Apple has always looked out for kids,” an Apple spokesperson told iMore, “and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online. We lead the industry by offering intuitive parental controls built right into the operating system.
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. Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.
We began delivering these controls for iPhone in 2008 with the introduction of the App Store, building on what we’d learned from offering similar features for the Mac a few years before iPhone was introduced. We also have a long history of curating our content platforms to make sure they are free of offensive material, such as pornography, and clearly labeled so parents can determine if an app, movie or song is age-appropriate. Of course, we are constantly looking for ways to make our experiences better. We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.
We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them. We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”
Apple has offered parental controls since shortly after iPhone launched and has augmented them several times over the years, including offering Guided Access, which locks users into a single app.
I love that Apple will be providing more and better parental controls for iPhone and other devices. What the company has done for mobile device management (MDM) and education management shows just how granular and powerful those types of tools can be. Hopefully, Apple can also make them easier and more accessible to parents who aren’t also IT administrators as well.
But Apple can only ever provide part of the solution to technology-based problems. Parents have to provide the other. My godkids, for example, have to earn screen time by doing homework, helping out around the house, and working on social and other skills. They have to do a lot of work to get even a short time on an iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, or TV set.
And they’re not alone.
We do that all the time. Our kid gets screen time after reading. 30 Mins of reading get her 30 mins of screen
— carolina milanesi (@caro_milanesi) January 9, 2018
But yes, I can already see that close monitoring is needed with kids and screen time. My wife and I use a pretty heavy hand when it comes to our son using YouTube. He is only allowed to watch certain videos that we approve.
— Neil Cybart (@neilcybart) January 8, 2018