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The Forbidden Product


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   Since the role out of the iPhone in 2007, the simple, streamlined smartphone has changed the very fabric of society. The sharing of memories has never been more accessible and popular. The portable console gaming market dropped like a rock just as a touch-screen market was created and shot up in popularity. Business management can now be facilitated with the swipe of a finger. But these benefits come at a high cost, both financial and psychological.

  The fiery discussion for greater parental controls was reignited on Jan. 6 when activist groups heavily invested in Apple petitioned the company to take more responsibility in preventing technology addiction in children. These investors implored the company to study the effects of its technology on the brains of impressionable children and teenagers.

  “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 [their] products in an optimal manner,” said an investor from Jana Partners, the company leading the petition. “We believe in the long-term health of [the] youngest customers and the health of society, our economy and the company itself are inextricably linked.”

  The main request was to develop adolescent-focused functions. These include giving parents the choice to establish age-appropriate setup options, the restriction of devise usage to certain hours, and a reduction in the available number of social media sites. Even more restrictive than these is their fourth request: allowing parents to set up “parental monitoring.” The app OurPact is similar, and currently allows for parents to stream their child’s activity to their own products. This open letter leads one to believe the investors are inciting Apple to make that tool mainstream.

  Before this, parental controls were limited in that they could control the amount of time or type of function the technology was being used for, but could not directly monitor the activity.

  “When I was younger my mom put restrictions on my phone that would not let me text past a certain time,” Junior Isabella Garganese said. “I believe that that type of restriction is beneficial sometimes because it keeps kids from staying up too late texting on their phones.”

   Although these settings seem on a surface level to be ideal from the view of a concerned parent, they also come with their share of drawbacks.

  “A few years ago, my mom got MyCircle, which regulates time limits for internet usage,” Garganese said. “I only had three hours per day. If I had more homework to complete online, I couldn’t do it at my house. I think unless it becomes a problem, there doesn’t need to be regulations or restrictions. The exception would be people acting inappropriately or who are glued to their devices.”

  Besides this, the company has received a litany of controversy over the past couple of months. Apple updates were conclusively found to sabotage the performance of the companie’s products, putting strain on batteries designed for the operating system with which they were sold.

 Secondly, its release of the underwhelming iPhone X was met with little fanfare. Jana Partners has aslo been the subject of dissent for their business practices.

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, once described the group as “Ringwraiths” (the hooded figures from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), owing to his claim that Jana bought a significant portion of the company stock, then ran a smear campaign against Whole Foods so they could snatch the bankrupt business.

In light of this, Jana’s request for improved parental controls could either be a way to repair a damaged public image, or it may be a way to ruin Apple to such a point they must sell. This is seen by the way Jana directly linked it (and no other company like Samsung or Microsoft) to malignant tendencies correlated to their product’s usage.

  Either way, this could mean some very bad news. While this shift of power from the product to the parent at first seems like a great idea for the concerned parent, moving more influence to the adults rather than to an indifferent company, this new system could really result in resentment from all parties.

  By constantly inspecting their kids, parents may be protecting their children from problems associated with internet usage like potential predators or the aforementioned addiction, but in doing so could create some sense of animosity with them. In a sense, a thing which many kids probably take as a right, that of being allowed to use their phones, could be revoked to the status of privilege.

  For those not used to this set up, this action might not seem like concern but undeserved punishment, although children whose first product had the parental monitor could be better off.

  For either situation, the only way this could have a silver lining is if parents implement their acts of control with acts of conversation. By letting their child know their reasons for implementing any of the restrictions and hearing their kid’s point of view (even if unfounded, out of respect), parental monitors could be a useful addition to family life and might even strengthen relationships.

  The child being monitored, rather than feeling a sense of privacy and free speech, might now be blocked from that luxury. A text between one or more people could now feel a sense of strained formality, even if the subject is noncontroversial. These groups provide a safe space for young people to voice their anger of what they perceive to be unfair. Even if some of the things said in such a chat may be disparaging or insulting, as long as they are kept private and do not result in any person being hurt, either in their reputation or their emotions, there should be no reason to stop.

  As Jana Partners indicated, it wants to stop addiction in the products for the young and impressionable by means of control. If a parent believed there was a likelihood for their kid to become addicted to his or her phone, they might choose to implement these features. Occam’s Razor doesn’t point to that solution.

  The simplest answer is to wait until their child is mature enough.

  Jana indicated Apple has a chance to once again innovate Silicon Valley by pressuring other companies to include restrictions. However, it is very possible that rather than be a leader, Apple could fall behind in its image as a trendy and modern company, paralleled by a drop in sales. Young adults who no longer feel an incentive to buy its products will probably start buying another brand of phone. The only market which would be left may be adults who had the products, and in time they too might switch over to the brands their children use to accommodate family-size cellular plans.

  Such a loss would be detrimental to Apple, and would probably be bad for all industries reliant on their company’s success.

  Game developers could have to change the outlook of their businesses to develop for whatever new phone becomes the next champion of the people. Independent studios might survive since the same members who program the games are usually the same people who own the company, but megacorporations would probably just liquidate their studios developing for OS. The whole music industry, already on life support compared to its heyday of the 1990s, would likely be more greatly crippled by the fall of iTunes and Apple Music.

  In essence, parental controls and monitors could act like a cast, both on a shattered kneecap and an uninjured one. In one way, parental restrictions could bring fragmented family members together by serving as a gateway to conversations about maturity and responsibility, privacy and over-sheltering. On the other hand, they might also weaken joints that allow a fine family to function and could bring atrophy to the sense of comfort in that household. It all depends on understanding parents and open-minded children.

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The Forbidden Product