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The smartphone has been an integral part of our society for almost two decades. Who could ever have guessed this small device would change our world so drastically? Today, the smartphone serves many purposes: telephone, calendar, navigation, web browser, note-keeper…the list can go on and on. While there are many ways smartphones help us, they have also become an obsession.


77% of Americans own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011. When Deloitte surveyed 4,150 adults in 2017, 38% thought they were using their smartphone too much. 79% of respondents checked apps in the hour before they went to sleep or within 15 minutes of waking up (55%).

If adults can’t resist the allure of the smartphone, how can kids be expected to? A 2016 report found that the average age for children to get a phone is 10.3. According to research conducted by the Kaiser Foundation, children and teens use four to five times the recommended amount of technology. QuestionPro Audience conducted a study among teens ages 14-19, and found that 24% spend more than 6 hours on their phone each day. It’s not only a problem along tweens and teens, however. A team of researchers at University of Iowa found that by age two, 90% of modern children had a moderate ability to use a tablet. While the long-term effects of children using smartphones is still to be determined, it has been found that usage causes eye discomfort, promote a sedentary lifestyle, and irregular sleep patterns.


Concern over tech addiction have spawned a movement to change among former Silicon Valley employees. Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, is now the executive director of the Center for Humane Technology. His aim is to push the industry toward technology that protects and replenishes society. Per Harris, “The key thing is, the addiction [to technology] is not happening by accident — it’s happening by design.” Technology companies whose business models hinge on maximizing attention “are not aligned with human well-being,” he says. “It’s not because they’re evil but because that’s their model.”

In January, Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which together own a $2 billion stake in Apple, wrote an open letter to the company, asking them to address the issue of phone addiction among children. The companies asked Apple to take a socially responsible approach to helping parents navigate phone ownership among kids. “By doing so, we believe Apple would once again be playing a pioneering role, this time by setting an example about the obligations of technology companies to their youngest customers,” said the two companies in their letter. In response to the request, Apple has created a new feature, Screen Time. Screen Time shows users their daily and weekly time spent in each app and also lets them set time limits for specific apps. Users can also see how many notifications they received and how often they picked up the device. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, told CNN this week that after seeing the data from the new tool, he was shocked when he found out how much time he was spending on his phone.