Tim Cook
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

January 29, 2018

Dear Tim,

As a mother of two daughters, a shareholder, a longstanding Apple customer, and a Fuqua alumnae, I would like to join you in your efforts to improve Apple’s parental controls. Over the last eighteen months, I have spent 100+ hours studying the impact of devices on today’s families, delving deep into Apple’s existing controls, conducting focus groups to understand what the barriers are to their use, and synthesizing my findings into actionable steps.

I first became deeply concerned about the ramifications of personal devices for families and children five years ago when a dear friend shared her heartbreaking story with me. She discovered, that after some innocent Googling, her son had stumbled upon the world of pornography. There was no undoing the damage, and when her husband asked her why she didn’t have restrictions turned on, she was shocked to learn that they even existed.

The fact that she didn’t know, I didn’t know, and I’ve had Harvard MBAs and other very bright women sit in my living room tell me they don’t know, leads me to the first of my major findings:

1) There is no triggering event which informs parents of Apple’s parental controls.

2) If parents are aware, they are also confused—it is not intuitive. While there is skeletal functionality, it still lacks the meat of explanation.

3) The setup process when you manage multiple devices for multiple children is onerous. I counted 113 steps to activate family sharing and my first device. Estimating 70 more steps for every device thereafter, I would need to complete a total of 393 steps for the 5 iOS devices I manage.  

4) For the 18 different use scenarios we have identified, native Apple parental controls are too complicated and time-consuming.

5) There’s no record of what you set up, you can accidentally erase settings, and there are no prompts for troubleshooting or reminders to review your settings.

While Apple has developed a comprehensive ecosystem that prides itself on ease of use and seamless integration, there is a major digital divide with respect to women and technology. The primary focus of 29% of women with school-age children is their families and another significant percent are self-employed, leaving these two groups without access to an IT helpdesk or even tech-savvy co-workers. Considering that 78% of teens are now using iPhones, I imagine we must be one of your most important customer segments. Every time a child is born, so is an Apple customer. We are building your pipeline for the future, and we are looking to you for your leadership.

Along with many other women, I am now playing the role of Chief Technology Officer of my household, and it could be so much easier. Below are some of my recommendations at a high-level:

  • Communicate with your customers at the point of sale and setup re: parental controls.
  • Use algorithms to guide users through phone setup for their children.
  • Provide parents with a record for parental controls and other phone settings.
  • Develop functionality to create customized user profiles that can overlay multiple devices.
  • Give parents the ability to create schedules for access and bifurcate educational apps from entertainment apps.

I have no doubt that Apple is fully capable of designing an effective and elegant solution that would give parents the tools to make the best choices for their families. I’m pleased you’ve announced you intend to make improvements to parental controls and would be happy to join your team of engineers to share my insights for feature improvements. Please consider my credentials: My experience reflects those of your key demographic, I’m a business, not a technology professional, which gives me the advantage of an outsider’s perspective, and I am deeply committed to working towards positive change.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the time is right for more collaboration and partnership between Silicon Valley and women. I hope to advance the cause.

With best wishes,


Julie Paul
Founder and CEO, Heard It From a Friend

 

About:

Heard It From A Friend is committed to helping women keep up with technology and knowing how to best apply it in their everyday lives. Through our community and collaboration, we help women to boost their tech savvy, which is key to increasing productivity and efficiency on the home front. Women carry the majority of the load when it comes to running the “Family Business,” and we need more leverage, which includes better technology and solutions. Our mission is to help bridge the gap with Silicon Valley, so we can get the technology we need and have an active voice in our future.

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