The technology giant Apple is under fire after a couple of its investors requested the company to offer more tools to fight smartphone addiction in children. But is it really Apple responsibility to fix the problem?
The world has always seen people suffer from various addictions; whether it is a substance or a behavior. However, addictions have taken a more subtle and sneaky form: smart devices. This new addiction seems to be creating havoc among teens and younger users. According to the GINAD, the Global Information Network About Drugs, there is proof now that excessive use of tablets and smartphones leads to anxiety and depression among teenagers. In an interview, Louis Kraus, MD at the Rush University Medical Center, clarifies that it might not be the devices themselves that are dangerous, but what they make the children miss. For example, children spending too much time on their devices are missing social interactions, family life, etc. Kraus insists that once a child has lost those vital moments in life, there is no turning back. Maybe, that would justify the concern of two of Apple's investors.
Recently, the technology giant, Apple, received a letter from its investors Janus Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, asking the tech company to incorporate stronger parental control tools in the smart devices in order to prevent children from developing an addiction to the iPhone. The Apple company responded to the letter reassuring consumers and investors that the wellbeing of children is always at the center of their work, which nobody can doubt considering that Apple products already come with a few parental control tools infused in their operating system. Apple also promised to present, in the future, devices that would help parents better address the issue of their children's addiction. However, would it be enough for Apple to make their products better? How can parents know when to give their kids a smart phone?
While Apple is contemplating its next move, there are resources like Cyberwise that educate people on internet safety. Actually, Diana Graber, founder of Cyberwise, has a few suggestions for parents. She believes like many others that it is up to parents to appreciate whether their children are mature enough to handle a smart device. There are a set of questions Graber proposes parents should ask themselves in order to evaluate when to buy a smartphone for their kids: can children protect their reputation online? Can they protect their private info? What do they know about building safe online relationships? What about their role online? Can they identify scams? The type of questions to ensure that the child understands the dangers and responsibilities that come with smartphones. Some people like Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, recommend that parents give a smart device to children starting from 8th grade. At that point, how can parents ensure that smartphones are not misused?
When it comes to parenting kids that can't live without a smartphone or tablet, the opinions vary as far as who is to blame for the addictions, but one thing everybody agrees on is that parents should have a discussion with their children to find out what their mindset is, the app they like, what their preferred use of the devices are. The results of those discussions may even help parents build better bonds with their children. According to Scott Steinberg, author of the book Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide, the best way to parent high-tech kids is by using good old low-tech parenting. Discussions are opportunities for parents to evaluate the needs of the kids and how those needs relate to the stage they are at in life, while building strong bonds.
Overall, it is clear that the task of protecting children against the dangers of smart devices behooves mainly parents. However, it will help if the technology companies perfect their devices in that sense. The question that remains unexplored is whether adults themselves can be trusted with the devices. After all, it is a fact that 82% of Americans use a smartphone, 73% of American teenagers use a smartphone with teenagers representing only 13% of the population. Who are the real addicts in the story?
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