Recent reports suggest that we check our phones every 12 minutes and are, on average, connected to the Internet for more that 40 hours per week. As a nation, we are growing ever more reliant on hand held technology and the younger generation in particular, are you using smartphones more than ever before. Whilst constant connectivity has numerous benefits, there are growing concerns that increased screen time is having a number of negative implications such as reduced productivity, impaired social interactions and adverse effects on mental health.
Given the suspected repercussions of problematic mobile phone usage, efforts are being made to help users ‘switch off’ from technology and engage with their devices in a more positive way. What is surprising, however, is that it is the tech giants that are leading the way and implementing tools within their platforms to encourage more meaningful usage.
Facebook to limit screen time
This month Facebook and Instagram have announced changes that will effect how users engage with the platform. Both will soon roll out a suite of features, which are intended to promote the well being of their users. This includes measures, which show you the total amount of time spent on the app, as well as controls, which allow you have greater control over your usage. For example, it will soon be possible to set notifications that will appear after a pre determined amout of time reminding you to take a break. There will also be the option to ‘snooze’ push notifications to give people time to disconnect and wind down before sleep.
Digital wellbeing seems to be a common theme throughout the tech industry, and Facebook appears to be following in the footsteps of Google and Apple who announced similar plans earlier in the year.
Productivity tools within IOS 12
Like Facebook, Apple will soon release options as part of IOS 12 that will allow users to drill down on their phone usage and see how much time they are spending on specific apps as well as categories of app.
These will be compiled into daily and weekly screen time reports, which will give users an insight into their usage. Whilst notifications will appear that tell people when their usage is high, or when they have reached their self-imposed limit, it will be possible to bypass these and continue using the device. Apples approach therefore is to increase people’s awareness of their usage and then allow allow them to adapt as they see fit.
Google, on the other hand, have taken a more stringent approach, with options in place that can actually prevents people from using specific apps or the device completely. They are also making strides in streamlining processes, so that tasks can be completed quickly and in a more efficient manner, which will help users spend less time on their phones and engage in more meaningful social interactions.
Given the speed with which these technologies have been adopted into our lives, there is no guarantee that changes will heed results. Only time will tell whether it is possible to reduce the amount of time spent on devices and whether a reduction will have a positive effect on the wellbeing of users.