Stanford Seniors Protest Apple’s Role In Smartphone Addiction

By Victoria Kim 03/09/18
The problem is larger than Apple, but it's in the best position to address it, say the students.
a man staring into his phone in the dark

A group of Stanford University computer science majors urged Apple to take smartphone addiction seriously, staging a small protest at the company’s former headquarters, 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California.

There, they held up signs and handed out pamphlets to passersby, including Apple employees.

They staged a second protest at the Apple Store in Palo Alto.

The four friends—Sanjay Kannan, Evan Sabri Eyuboglu, Divyahans Gupta, and Cameron Ramos—formed Stanford Students Against Addictive Devices as part of a class ethics project, they shared with Business Insider.

“We see… in our generation the issue of device dependence and device addiction,” said Ramos, who explained that devices like the iPhone, as well as smartphone apps, facilitate a cycle of use and reward that keeps people engaged.

“Especially in social situations we find that when you're around the dinner table or when you’re just chilling with your friends, people are just always perpetually   on their phones and they just won’t participate in the social situation,” said Kannan.

Gupta said that while Apple isn’t the only company responsible for contributing to device addiction, it is in the best position to address the issue.

The students pitched a few ideas to passing Apple engineers. They included an “essential mode” that would limit the phone’s usage to calls, texts, and photos.

“Our idea with essential mode was to have Apple give their users the option to use their phone in simpler ways,” said Eyuboglu. “The idea is that just like alongside airplane mode and low-power mode, you have an essential mode. So with a flick of a switch on the phone, you’d be able to shut down a lot of those distracting bumps on the phone and bring it down just to the essentials, like calls, texts, photos, and say, maps.”

Apple could also offer more control over notifications, to limit the amount of times your phone will ding or light up, and to do so only for “the things you actually care about,” read the group’s pamphlet.

Another idea is for Apple to offer a built-in app with every iPhone that tracks phone usage and reports patterns. “Think: like the Health app, except instead of counting steps, it tracks how much time you spend on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Reddit,” read the pamphlet.

iPhone users can request these features online or with Apple Store employees. And for some immediate smartphone addiction relief, they suggest turning off notifications or changing the display to grayscale, which is said to reduce the rewarding feeling of seeing the colorful display.

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