Apple planning new iPhone features to help stop kids getting addicted to smartphones

To stop kids from getting addicted to its iPhones and iPads, Apple is planning to introduce improved parental controls within iOS.

While there’s no word on how it will implement measures to stop children from whiling away the hours tapping on the iPhone 8, or spending too much time being an animated unicorn through the iPhone X’s Face ID tech, Apple said it has “new features and enhancements” in the works to add more functionality to parental controls and make them 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 said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Such a move was likely prompted by a letter sent by Apple investors JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which raised concerns over how children may end up overusing their iPhones and iPads.

The letter argued that overuse of such devices – and, in particular, social media – can lead to children getting distracted from work, not getting enough sleep, and experiencing depression – with clear health effects attached to the latter two.

While the letter acknowledges there’s no definitive evidence to suggest any problems arise from lengthy use of smartphones, it notes that the average American teenager gets “her” (an interesting gender assumption…) first phone at 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day using it.

“It would defy common sense to argue that 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 said.

Preventing children for having iPhones or iPads is not what the letter is after, but it is advocating a more balanced approach to smartphone use which Apple can facilitate by expanding on its parental controls.

“We note that Apple’s current limited set of parental controls in fact dictate a more binary, all or nothing approach, with parental options limited largely to shutting down or allowing full access to various tools and functions,” the letter explained.

“While there are apps that offer more options, there are a dizzying array of them (which often leads people to make no choice at all), it is not clear what research has gone into developing them, few if any offer the full array of options that the research would suggest, and they are clearly no substitute for Apple putting these choices front and centre for parents.”

Expect to see an update to iOS ushering in more parental controls, without necessarily ruining the enjoyment of iPhones and iPads for children, in the near future.

Related: CES 2018 highlights

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