By Damini Singh
Apple, the multibillion-dollar tech company that rolls out technologically superior gadgets every year, is always adding new achievements and features to its repertoire. Recently, the company added a new webpage, “Family”, on its website. This webpage is designed to enable parents to regulate their children’s usage of devices and help monitor their usage.
One of the most important features of the webpage is the regulation of smartphone usage by young people. The webpage on Apple’s website collects information about both the company’s family feature as well as parental control in one place. It features an “Ask to Buy” tool which allows parents to monitor and permit or decline app purchases in their children’s devices. This feature also allows users to block in-app purchases as well as provides an option to limit adult content on their kids’ devices, as well as restrict their web-browsing to pre-approved sites only.
As the webpage states, “we’ve put a lot of thought into helping parents choose what their kids can do with their devices”. Sure enough, back in January, the company said that it would introduce features to enable parental control when two of its shareholders posted an open letter that goaded Apple to address the increasing problem, or ‘growing public health crisis’ of smartphone addiction among the youth. Activist investors Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) pension fund, who own around $2 billion worth of shares in the company, composed an open letter asking the company to develop software tools that would aid parents in regulating and monitoring their kids’ usage of devices—as well as to investigate and look into the adverse effects of smartphone usage on the mental health of the youngsters.
Curbing the addiction
According to the statistics, as cited by the letter, studies showed that the average age for American teenagers to receive their first iPhone is 10, and they spend almost 4.5 hours per day on it—this number excludes their texting and call time. It is also said that around 78 percent teenagers reportedly felt ‘addicted’ to their phones, and checked it multiple times in an hour.
Citing these worrisome statistics, the complainer shareholders asked Apple to develop software features which would help to regulate phone usage and decrease this reported dependency. The company has, after the letter was published, shown willingness to address and acknowledge these negative consequences of using iPhones and other devices.
Features on the Apple website
The webpage on Apple’s official website is further broken into sections, which highlight a wide-range of children friendly features that include control on in-app purchases, app recommendations, Find My Friends features, regulation on app downloading and internet usage, etc. The webpage also includes a specially curated ‘Kids’ section’, where age-appropriate apps, websites and other materials can be found by parents, which will help them to customise their kids’ devices according to their ages. There are links to tutorials, which teach parents to enable the “Ask to Buy” feature, so they can approve downloads. It also provides tutorials on how they can turn on the restrictions which will limit websites that are available to children and youngsters, as well as in-app purchases.
The “Find My Friend” features, which is a step-up from the earlier “Find My Phone” feature, allows parents to keep track of their kids’ location, as well as has provisions for setting up group chats with all the members of the family. Family Sharing features are also incorporated in this—members can share apps, music, books, iCloud storage, iTunes purchases, etc with each other—along with privacy control measures such as Do Not Disturb While Driving, Bedtime, Medical ID, Night Shift and Emergency SOS.
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