For unlimited access to Study Guides, a Grade+ subscription is required.
For many of us, smartphones have become indispensable, but they have also come under firefor their impact on the way we think and behave, especially among children. Two of the largestinvestors in Apple Inc. are urging the iPhone maker to take action against smartphone addictionamong children over growing concerns about the negative effects of technology. An open letterto Apple on January 6, 2018 from New York-based JANA Partners and the California StateTeachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) stated that the firm must do more to help childrenfight smartphone addiction. These two shareholders together control about $2 billion in Applestock. The investors’ letter urged Apple to offer tools to prevent smartphone addiction and toprovide more parental options for monitoring children’s smartphone usage. The iOS operatingsystem for Apple smartphones and tablets already has limited parental controls for restrictingExaminers: Dr. Emmanuel Awuni and Dr. Acheampong Owusu Page 2 of 4apps, features such as location sharing, and access to certain types of content. The investorsfelt Apple needs to do more—for example, enable parents to specify the age of the user of thephone during setup, establish limits on screen time, select hours of the day the phone can beused, and block social media services.The average American teenager who uses a smartphone receives his or her first phone at age10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it (excluding texting and talking). Seventy-eight percentof teens check their phones at least hourly and 50 percent report feeling “addicted” to theirphones. The investors’ letter cited a number of studies on the negative effects of heavysmartphone and social media use on the mental and physical health of children whose brainsare still developing. These range from distractions in the classroom to a higher risk of suicideand depression. A recent survey of over 2,300 teachers by them Center on Media and ChildHealth and the University of Alberta found that 67 percent of the teachers reported that thenumber of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom isgrowing. Seventy-five percent of these teachers think students’ ability to focus on educationaltasks has decreased. Research by psychology professor Jean Twenge of San Diego StateUniversity found that U.S. teenagers who spend 3 hours a day or more on electronic devicesare 35 percent more likely, and those who spend 5 hours, or more are 71 percent more likely,to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than 1 hour. This research alsoshowed that eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media have a 27 percent higher riskof depression. Those who spend more than the average time playing sports, hanging out withfriends in person, or doing homework have a significantly lower risk. Additionally, teens whospend 5 or more hours a day on electronic devices are 51 percent more likely to get less than 7hours of sleep per night (versus the recommended 9).Nicholas Carr, who has studied the impact of technology on business and culture, shares theseconcerns. He has been highly critical of the Internet’s effect on cognition, and these cognitiveeffects extend to smartphone use. Carr worries that excessive use of mobile devices diminishesthe capacity for concentration and contemplation. Carr recognizes that smartphones providemany useful functions in a very handy form. However, this extraordinary usefulness gives themtoo much influence on our attention, thinking, and behaviour. Smartphones shape our thoughtsin deep and complicated ways, and their effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices.Research suggests that the intellect weakens as the brain grows dependent on the technology.Carr points to the work of Adrian Ward, a cognitive psychologist and marketing professor atthe University of Texas at Austin, who for a decade has been studying how smartphones andthe Internet affect people’s thoughts and judgment. Ward has observed that using a smartphone,or even hearing one ring or vibrate, produces distractions that make it harder to concentrate ona difficult problem or job. Divided attention impedes reasoning and performance.A study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in April 2017 examined how smartphonesaffected learning in a lecture class with 160 students at the University of Arkansas atMonticello. It found that students who didn’t bring their phones to the classroom scored a fullletter-grade higher on a test of the material presented than those who brought their phones. Itdidn’t matter whether students who brought their phones used them or not. A study of 91 U.K.secondary schools, published in 2016 in the journal Labour Economics, found that whenschools ban smartphones, students’ examination scores go up substantially, and the weakest students benefit the most. Carr also observes that using smartphones extensively can bedetrimental to social skills and relationships. Connecting with “friends” electronically viasmartphones is not a substitute for genuine person-to-person relationships and face-to-faceconversations.