Open Letter by Apple Shareholders Asks For More iOS Parental Controls [Update]

In an open letter, two activist Apple shareholders—Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System—asked the company to create more iOS parental controls. The shareholders also urge Apple to study the effects of heavy iPhone usage on mental health.

Open Letter

We have reviewed the evidence and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner.

Doing so poses no threat to Apple, given that this is a software (not hardware) issue and that, unlike many other technology companies, Apple’s business model is not predicated on excessive use of your products.

iOS Parental Controls

Enabling iOS parental controls in iPhone settings.
The restrictions area in iOS settings can be used as parental controls

To be clear, iOS already has parental controls, and you can access them in Settings > General > Restrictions. But as the letter notes, they are only binary controls. Parents can limit their kids from accessing certain apps, buying things, and limiting content to certain ratings.

Some examples of advanced iOS parental controls the investors give are: letting parents set the age of the iPhone user on setup, imposing limits on screen time, hours of day the phone can be used, and blocking social media apps.

Apple tends not to be influenced by activist shareholders. But perhaps this is an issue that can strike interest in the company’s leadership. Apple already performs certain health studies, such as the latest Apple Heart Study. An official mental health study could be beneficial. Instead of psychologists being used to make people addicted to mobile games, Apple could use a board of psychologists as they were intended: to help people.


Apple has responded to the letter, and the company says that new features and enhancements are planned for a future iOS update. Whether we’ll see this in iOS 12 or later, it seems that Apple is listening and thinks the issue is worthwhile.

9 thoughts on “Open Letter by Apple Shareholders Asks For More iOS Parental Controls [Update]

  • When I was a kid my dad didn’t want us using the phone so much. (Old style, wall mounted landline phone.) What did he do? He unplugged it unless he wanted to use it. If we complained is reply was “My phone, my house, my rules.” So while I like the idea of more granular tools for managing parental limits, in the end the parent has to be in charge. If neccisary take the d*** thing away and tell them to go outside and play.

    For that matter, today’s kids are tech savvy. I suspect a surprising number of them have figured out how to hack the parental controls and reset them.

  • Or, or, you could tell your kids to only use something so long or stop using something. But why directly parent your kids when you can set up artificial barriers that avoid you encountering your inabilities to tell your kids how to behave.

    That said, more gradual controls would be a nice thing Apple could choose to do, but that these requests come in for software to confront kids rather than parents deal with their own kids tells me of more fundamental problems existing in society. Funny, people can spew venom and mean tweets to perfect strangers, but can’t cope with theming their own kids to sit down, shut up, behave, much less teaching a modicum of self control or heaven forbid, good manners.

  • I don’t think it is an unreasonable request nor an outsourcing of parental responsibilities. My sister has a time limiting app installed on her 8 year old son’s desktop computer. Then when that runs out he grabs the iPad and plays as long as he wants. So it would make sense to have a time limiter on the iPad too. The alternative is to manually track usage time and grab the iPad away when the time runs out.

    Also, some adults install apps to help them manage their own semi-additions, like blocking YouTube at work. (I don’t, but a friend of mine does.)

    I don’t think Apple HAS to do this, but it would be nice if they did.

    1. I don’t have kids myself, but I agree that 1. Apple should consider mental health as part of their overall health initiative; and 2. I don’t think more advanced parental controls would hurt.

  • re: John Kheit: Signed, not ‘singed’.

    re: the article: Amazing what people with more money than brains will try to get large companies to do. Let’s outsource our parenting to .

    More evidence as to why Apple needs to take itself private. Then they won’t have to listen to all the yammering from Wall Street.

  • Dear Apple. We parents suck. Please help us do what we are failures at, and parent our kids for us, while we indignantly tap our foot giving you stink eye.

    Singed, parents that have no concept what that means.

    1. Those are my initial thoughts, too, John. Parental controls already exist, including the one where you take the device out of your kid’s hand or restrict its use. Nevertheless, I can tell you that based on my own experiences, the differences between children who were and were not exposed to devices prematurely is profound, this isn’t just blowing smoke. An alarming multitude of children and young people are lacking in fundamental abilities that may be very difficult to teach them later on when early development has ceased. If nothing else, Apple and others need to stop advertising their devices as a universal panacea, they just aren’t.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.