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Gottheimer calls on Apple to fix parental control, screen time software flaws putting children at risk

Gottheimer: "It's time to give parents back the power."

NEW JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Monday, alongside educators and mental health professionals, called on Apple CEO Tim Cook to immediately fix long-standing problems with Apple’s parental controls and Screen Time software to help parents protect their children from spending too much time online and watching explicit content.

Gottheimer will be sending Apple a letter this week demanding answers on when these software glitches and loopholes will be fixed. Settings that limit screen time and restrict access to certain web content — which would prevent kids from watching pornography, R-rated movies, inappropriate TV shows, and other explicit content — are not functioning as promised.

Thousands of Apple product users have written to Apple sharing frustrations with Screen Time’s parental controls, noting failures including downtime, app limits, and content restrictions that all deactivated after being set or updated. Apple confirmed to Gottheimer that the company is aware of these issues, but provided no clear timeline for a fix.

Data from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shows that, on average, children ages 8 to 12 in the United States spend 4 to 6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours — far in excess of what experts consider safe. A study found that excessive screen time leads to sleep, weight, and mood problems, lower grades in school, poor self and body image, and reduced physical activity.

“Apple is dragging their feet on developing effective parental controls for their addictive products. Turning a profit cannot be more important than protecting our children,” Gottheimer said. “Trust me, sometimes we’d love to take the smartphones, laptops, and tablets away from our kids for good, but it’s just not realistic. Kids today use these devices to do their homework, connect with their friends, and call their parents when they need help. It’s up to all of us to make sure the voices of millions of parents are heard because some tech companies can and must do better. It’s time to give parents back the power.”

“Thank you, Congressman Gottheimer, for your leadership and investment in the physical and mental well-being of our youth, and for raising awareness about the impact of excessive screen time and the need for highly effective parental controls on the devices in our children’s hands,” New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Executive Director Karen Bingert.

“Common Sense has been raising a flag for nearly a decade about the negative impact that excessive screen time has on children,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and Founder of Common Sense Media, the nation’s leading kids and technology nonprofit. “Apple has made a good start with this with their parental controls, and we encourage them to make their screen time parental controls even stronger so that parents can more carefully monitor kids’ device usage.”

“New Jersey Child Assault Prevention incorporates Cyber-Empowerment into our workshops for children. As such, we are aware that excessive screen time in young children poses many dangers and concerns. Some of these include, but are not limited to, inability to form healthy relationships, risk of unhealthy online relationships with unknowns, sadness, loneliness, depression, have histories of sexual abuse and are likely to engage in risky behavior. As such, children should be monitored closely and encouraged to interact ‘face to face’ instead of relying on social media, chat rooms, online gaming for friendships and relationships,” New Jersey Child Assault Prevention said in a statement.

Gottheimer was joined by President & CEO Ridgewood YMCA Ramon Hache, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Executive Director Karen Bingert, and Bergen County Prevention Coalition Executive Vice President Stephanie Drag, and Bergen County Prevention Coalition Hub Coordinator Cassandra Colaizzi.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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