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Snippet: Thoughts on Kids and Apple Devices ☇

Shared on January 10, 2018

Yesterday, John Gruber shared an story about an open letter from two of the biggest investors on Wall Street asking Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier for parents to limit their children’s use of iPhones and iPads:

This open letter is getting a lot of attention, but to me, the way to limit your kids’ access to devices is simply, well, to limit their access to devices. I’m sure iOS’s parental controls could be improved (and in a statement, Apple claims they have plans to do so), but more granular parental controls in iOS are no substitute for being a good, involved parent.

Naturally, Gruber received a lot of negative responses to this comment, but I can’t say I disagree with him. The whole discussion made me think back to my childhood and all the tempting electronic gadgets that were around the house and how even when I was home alone, I understood the expectations (for context, I didn’t have a super-strict upbringing and did get into my share of trouble). Unsurprisingly, I was quite proficient with and interested in computers from a young age, but still wasn’t rushing to play games the second I got home from school. We also didn’t have to lock down everything where I’d need something like a gas-station-bathroom-key to get on the computer.

A number of commenters seemed to overlook the fact that Gruber is agreeing that Apple could improve parental controls. Personally, I think any improvements in that area are welcome, especially for blocking inappropriate content. However, there have been too many instances where iOS devices (and Android devices, too) are handed to a kid as some sort of babysitter and only after this becomes a problem, parents start demanding a way to undo bad behaviors. A few years back, I recall a family going out to eat at a restaurant and the two kids were deeply engrossed with their iPads—in my childhood, I recall that dining out was sort of treated as a special event, and in the 10-15 minutes of time before the food was brought out, we interacted as a family. In that example, the iPads probably shouldn’t have left the car or even the house.

I wonder if the bigger question is the role social media plays when coupled with these devices, but Apple is the bigger target for this discussion to gain momentum. A few more parental controls or finding that yes, Apple devices are addictive to only kids and not everyone isn’t going to fix the issue. It’s up to each family to set expectations and develop good habits, assisted with software on the devices, Wi-Fi router, or cellular provider.

By the way, I hate that the the open letter starts with a pop-up forcing you to agree to the terms before viewing it.

Snippets are posts that share a linked item with a bit of commentary.