Two of Apple’s influential investors have called for them to implement further initiatives to prevent the use of their technology having adverse side effects on the wellbeing of children. Jana Partners, an activist hedge fund, collectively owns around $2 billion worth of shares in Apple corporation. They highlighted their concerns, maintaining that: “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 ensure it is being used optimally.” Conversely, many Apple products already have parental controls installed. The iPad and iPhone both allow users to place restrictions on the access to certain apps and features. However, many feel that these measures do not go far enough. Research conducted by the Kaiser Foundation found that children and teenagers use up to five times the recommended amount of technology. Unfortunately, the excessive exposure to the pernicious influence of mass media can lead to negative consequences.
According to Young Minds, “despite most major social media companies – including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram – specifying that users must be 13 years old to have an account, we found that 61% of young people had a first account at age 12 or under.” They go on to argue that social media companies should ‘make greater efforts’ to provide age appropriate settings for children. According to the research they collected: “38% of young people reported that social media has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves compared to 23% who reported that it has a positive impact.” This report was produced with the purpose of combatting the issue of cyber bullying. The report argues that “social media companies’ responses to cyber bullying are inadequate.” However, cyber bullying is not the only danger posed by the overuse of technology. Leslie Walker of Lifewire referred to the following findings of researchers at Chicago University: “social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to cigarettes and booze”. This is a deeply troubling comparison. The obsessive-compulsive overuse of social media can be as addictive as certain drugs. This is a particular worrying where young children are concerned, who are naturally more vulnerable.
However, Sarah Knapton of the Telegraph highlighted that “when researchers at the University of Oxford quizzed 120,000 15-year olds about their wellbeing and compared it to screen time, they found that the use of gadgets had a positive impact.” This evidence supports the use of technology for developing children both mentally and academically. I have seen this positive impact of technology within my own workplace. I currently work in a secondary school that provides each student with an iPad. Students can use these gadgets to carry out independent research and complete homework. These devices have had a positive impact on the vast majority of students. They can be used to create digitally interactive lessons, enhance creativity and encourage independent learning. However, I do support calls for Apple to implement further precautionary measures. There may well be a gap in the market for child friendly technology. I can imagine these being adopted by schools across the country.
Overall, it is certainly arguable that the positive impact of technology can justify its use for educational purposes. The anxiety that surrounds this scenario is, to an extent, unfounded. As Sarah Knapton concluded: “there is little to support fears that spending time on digital devices is harmful.” It is clear that technology has become an integral aspect of our modern society. Our screens are intricately woven into our daily routines. Although this is a highly contestable issue, I believe that further safety measures would significantly reduce concern. Direct action would help to reduce the negative impacts of technology, whilst sustaining the benefits. Despite the negative impact technology has on society, when it is harnessed correctly, it is an incredible force for good.
Written by Chris Kenny
If you enjoyed this blog, you might like The impact of digital on post millennials