Investors are urging Apple Inc. to study how smartphone use impacts mental health amid growing concerns about youth phone addiction and rising depression and suicide rates among teens.

Apple has been largely silent about how parents should manage children’s smartphone use and the company currently offers no guidance on responsible use.

But two of Apple’s largest investors recently issued a letter urging the company to do better in helping parents understand how smartphones impact their children and to give them more control to moderate their phone use.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or Calstrs, which control about $2 billion of Apple shares, sent a letter to Apple on (Jan. 6) urging it to develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health.

“Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do,” the shareholders wrote. “There is a developing consensus around the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility.”

The move is the latest in a broader effort to push technology companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Snapchat to consider their impact on society. Parents, educators, and even company officials have raised concerns about increasing rates of teen depression and suicide some believe is linked to a lack of face-to-face human contact.

The concerns range from overuse of smartphones to the content teens are exposed to online.

The push for more corporate responsibility comes as many schools are already taking action to curb the influence of some technologies.

David Sikkink, lead researcher of pedagogical schools for the School Cultures and Formation Project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia recently documented how schools are approaching the issue.

His research team observed six schools, and interviewed students, faculty, administrators, and parents in order to better understand the role that schools play in character formation. Sikkink reported, "Five of the schools in this sector had some limits on the use of technology in the classroom—for example, minimal projector use, no Smart Boards, and no cell phones in the school."

These schools, recognizing the power that technology—and phones in particular—can have on attention and interpersonal interaction, have already placed limits on those technologies to keep students focused.

However Apple responds to its investors, families and schools are taking proactive steps to limit the public-health, attention, and character effects of overuse of mobile technology.

Sikkink's research appears in the new book The Content of Their Character, scheduled for publication in February. CultureFeed subscribers can pre-order the book today for a deep discount and free shipping.

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