By: Robert Garrett

New technology releases have a habit of introducing a bunch of new, ‘must have’ functions that are solutions to problems we never knew we had. However, Apple’s latest mobile operating system – iOS 12 has an interesting new function called Screen Time.

Where a lot of new apps on our devices sap more of our precious time, Screen Time’s purpose, according to Apple, is “to help customers reduce interruptions and manage screen time for themselves and their families.”

There is an Android equivalent – Digital Wellbeing, which is now out of beta available on all Google Pixel and Android One devices with Android 9.0 Pie.

How Screen Time Works

Screen Time provides the user with a few simple graphs showing how you used your device today and the past week. It gives stats on how many times you picked up your device, the amount of time spent on the device, and a detailed breakdown of which apps you used the most and how many notifications you received from the various apps.

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Healthy Boundaries

young boy playing on iPad screen

Another great function within Screen Time is the parental controls that enable you to set limits for how much screen time your children have on their devices. Outside of the agreed time, certain apps cannot be accessed, with the icon appearing grey.

The child can request an extension, which can be useful if they need a little extra time on the internet to work on a school project. I think Screen Time is an excellent tool for starting a conversation with our children about setting healthy boundaries around screen usage.

That’s always been the challenge – as much as our devices enhance our lives (remember how long it used to take to plan a trip on public transport involving several modes of transportation?) they can also be a huge distraction, incredible time wasters.

Revealing Your Busyness

What I love about Screen Time & Digital Wellbeing is that, until now, we’ve not had a good picture of how much time we spend on our devices. We all like to think we’re busy but busy doing what?

After I updated my iPhone and iPad to iOS 12; the set up gave the option to amalgamate the results for both devices so that I saw a consolidated report for mobile device usage. After a few weeks of data, I was starting to see a picture of my screen time….

My Personal Screen Time

Daily Usage

On an average day, I pick up my phone or iPad 31 times and use them for a total of 2hours 18mins.

Most Used Apps

1. Noteshelf, is a note-taking, document markup app. No surprise this is my most used app. In a bid to be paperless, I use this app with the Apple pencil as my virtual notebook
2. Safari – my default web browser. I do much research for my job and when writing, so again, no surprises here
3. Domain (real estate search) and Car Sales (new car reviews and vehicles for sale) – this was the big ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I spend 1h 30m on each of these apps each week. When sharing my Screen Time results with a friend, they asked if I was buying a new car or thinking about moving house. Neither of those is true; I love looking at cars and houses.

five people leaning against a wall looking down at their phones

Screen Time Reflects Your Priorities

I’m not necessarily saying we need to give up the things we love, but it does challenge us when we say we didn’t have time to hang out with the kids or take my wife on a date this week, but I found 3 hours to look at stuff I have no intention of buying. Screen Time reflects my priorities to me.

Disrupted by Notifications?

I receive 22 notifications a day, primarily from Facebook Messenger and text messages. This might not sound like much, but research tells us that it takes an average of 23mins to return to the original task after a disruption. I think that seems a little overstated, but even if the disruption is half that number, that’s a lot of wasted time.

So I’ve turned off notifications for some of the apps and will only check them at particular times throughout the day to see if that makes a difference to my productivity.

Technology Should Improve Life

As the tagline for Digital Wellbeing says, “Great technology should improve life, not distract from it”. For too long that’s not been the case. With Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing, we have two tools that challenge us to consider how much of our lives we devote to our devices. What we do with that information is up to each of us.

Article supplied with thanks to More Like the Father.

About the Author: Robert is an Australian author of More Like the Father. Robert and his wife Cath have 3 children; his two great passions are strengthening families and equipping and encouraging fathers.