The Village Idiot

Some big investors at Apple think that the company should do something to protect defenseless, wealthier-than-average children from their iPhones.

These charges are getting a lot of attention because they’re not made by publicity-seeking provocateurs -- they’re made by people who actually own billions of dollars in Apple stock. They say children are addicted to their iPhones, and even though Apple already has a host of parental controls built into every single iPhone, the company should do even more.

Why? Because we all know cellphones are bad for children because ... well, I can’t actually think of anything bad a phone has done to children. Except for the “fact” that they are addicted to them.

Is that like being addicted to television, or is it more like being addicted to sex? If you do too much of something, are you addicted? Does that make you a junkie? Are stockbrokers addicted to money, or are they just jerks? Are marathoners addicted to running? Are sales reps addicted to selling?

Or is being “addicted” to a smartphone more like watching football all weekend, to the exclusion of everything else? I know parents who have moved to different school districts so their kids can play sports on better teams. Are they addicted to their children?

Or are we addicted to the word “addicted”? Do you really believe there is such a thing as being addicted to sex, or is that just a made-up syndrome? Is that the same as being addicted to heroin or nicotine, or is more like saying you’re addicted to the hot tub? Or soap operas? Or yoga classes?

And honestly, aren’t we all addicted to waking up each morning? Yes, bad things may happen to us today because we’re alive. Let’s blame it all on our “waking-up addiction.” We wouldn’t have all these worries about our jobs and our children if we were dead. It’s such a shame that we’re all addicted to waking up.

Should we all be going to therapy for that? Some days, I think most of us are.

What, exactly, is the consequence of being addicted to a cellphone? Is the phone molesting children? (And by the way, their definition of “children” includes college students.) Is the phone making them smoke dope? Is the phone exposing them to things they shouldn’t be seeing -- like say, the kind of stuff that’s on prime-time network and cable TV every single night of the week and twice on Sunday?

Or is the harm that they use the phone too much? It’s funny, parents never complained about how much time their kids spent on the phone in the ‘60s. Or the ‘70s. Or the ‘80s. Or the ‘90s. Oh, yeah -- they complained all the time. How did those kids turn out? Pretty much the same as every other generation: some jerks, some OK, some wildly successful.

Let’s see: You can read a book on the iPhone, you can play solitaire, you can call your friends, you can do your homework. It’s a calculator, a clock, a calendar, a notebook, an alarm, a tracker, an answering machine -- OMG, why would we want our children to have one of these horrible things?! Because they are incredible, that’s why. For investors to act as if Apple is selling 13-year-olds cigarettes and pornography on the sly is disingenuous at best, holier-than-thou at worst.

If rich investors want to do something for children, they should make sure that no phone can text while it’s in motion. Make sure that the phone can only dial the kid’s parents or 911 while it’s in a school building. Make the phone stop parents from buying carbonated sugar-water for their children. It’s poisoning them.

Whoops! Sorry, that was off topic. As we all know, all the problems in the world are caused by cellphones. Everything else is just hunky-dory.

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

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