William by smartphones in a broad sense, and

William Clay Ford Jr.
Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company was quoted as saying, “Creating a strong
business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both
essential ingredients for long-term success.” I found homework question ‘D’ to
be immediately thought provoking and an interesting topic to explore. Even
though this is one of the shorter questions posed, I find so much possibility
and discussion packed in-between the lines. I would like to start this paper by
exploring whether there even exists a negative personal and social effect
caused by smartphones in a broad sense, and whether smart technology executives
are aware of these issues. Next, I will compare these results to other companies
who are held responsible for the repercussions on a social level such as soda and
tobacco companies. Finally, I will explore whether Apple itself should take
responsibility for the effects of smartphone technology and recommend how they
can put a social welfare plan in place.

The rise of the
smartphone in society can be categorized by three main phases over time. Initially,
they were meant for corporations as enterprise devices and were much too
expensive for the public. The second segment of the rise of the smartphone was
Apple releasing the iPhone in 2007 which was the first time the industry
produced a phone for general consumers market. Finally, segment three closed gaps
between enterprise centric and consumer centric smartphones including updating
operating systems, battery life, and display quality, and user friendliness. In
today’s world, roughly three-quarters of Americans now own smartphones and
83.8% of those smartphone users own an iPhone specifically.

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It is no secret that iPads
and iPhones, and the subsequent social media apps through which they are the
main gateway, are developed to be as addicting as possible. And, this fact is
commonly publicly acknowledged by their creators. Below are a few statistics I
found when researching the usage of smartphones and their effect on personal
and social development:

·       “Research
showing 8th graders who are heavy users of social media have a 27% higher risk
of depression…” (Hjelmgaard, 2018)

·       “Research
shows that U.S. teenagers who spend 3 hours a day or more on electronic devices
are 35% more likely, and those who spend 5 hours or more are 71% more likely,
to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than 1 hour.” (open
letter)

·       “A
study by UCLA researchers that showed that after five days at a device-free
outdoor camp, children performed far better on tests for empathy than a control
group.” (Hjelmgaard, 2018)

So, is Apple aware of
these issues? Two major Apple investors who control about $2B worth of shares,
wrote an open letter to the company on January 6th, 2018 calling for
Apple to curb the growing smartphone addiction among children. The following quote
sums up the sentiment of the letter: “There is a developing consensus around
the world including Silicon Valley that the potential long-term consequences of
new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can
outsource that responsibility to an app designer, or more accurately to
hundreds of app designers, none of whom have critical mass.” (xxxx) In addition
to this letter, Steve Jobs revealed in an interview with the New York Times in
2011 that he limits how much technology his children can use at home, and
further explains that they are prohibited from using the then newly released
iPad.

Finally, research shows
the negative social and personal effects caused by smartphone usage, and Apple
executives are aware of these effects, however, do they hold a moral corporate social
responsibility (CSR) to respond? To gain a better understanding of this topic I
chose to look to soda and tobacco companies to understand how society expects
them to handle similar issues. With American obesity on the rise, and the
addiction to tobacco as prevalent as ever, consumers have called on these
companies to own their products and their subsequent consequences. For example,
the government now requires tobacco companies to place health warnings on their
packaging and prevents advertising that can be misinterpreted by children (such
as provocatively enticing ads). The regulations on soda companies are less strict
but in recent years beverage companies have become more transparent about nutritional
facts, now offer healthier choices in their product lines, and are also prevented
from using advertising to persuade children to make unhealthy choices.

In conclusion, based on
the research detailing the negative effects of smartphone usage, the awareness
of Apple’s executive team to this issue, and the CSR standards to which America
holds similar large corporations; I believe Apple should take personal moral
responsibility for their products.