As smartphones and other devices have become more popular, and, for many, an integral piece of their daily routine, the conversation around just how often we use those devices grew louder. Addiction to technology is a real thing, and many saw it as a problem that the companies behind those devices needed to help address. Perhaps not outright fix, but at least try to help.
As such, we saw companies like Apple and Google release services to do just that. Apple’s Screen Time app has been available for iOS users for quite some time, and Google’s own option, Digital Wellbeing, has been around since before the end of 2018. Both are solid options and have plenty going for them, but there’s obviously some room to grow. Google and Apple will continue to evolve the services over time, listening to users along the way.
But what do you think of them right now, in their current state?
I have Screen Time activated on my iPhone. I use it primarily as a way to see just how much time I spend on my phone over a course of a week. However, I can’t say that I really pay any attention to it. When the weekly summary arrives on Sunday I typically look to see if my usage time has dropped or gone up, take the result under consideration, dismiss the notification, and then go about my day.
I’ve never used any of the features built into Screen Time, though. I can say without hesitation that, on some days, I look at my phone way too often and I actively try to make that not the case. But I don’t think it’s bad enough that I need my phone to lock me out of apps or anything like that. That being said I do like that the tools are there, and if someday I do feel like I could use some help, I can tap into them whenever I want.
I haven’t tried Google’s Digital Wellbeing yet. Google just launched a handful of new digital health apps that build upon the feature’s stable base. Five different apps that can make you even more aware of your device usage, or help you spend quality time with others away from the phone. For instance, one of the apps is a counter wallpaper that will show you just how many times you’ve unlocked your phone. I know that could be a pretty effective tool for some people, watching the number climb over the course of a day.
I can’t see Apple doing this sort of thing. But maybe they could build similar elements right into the Screen Time app at some point in the future. That would probably be a welcomed addition.
Of course, while Screen Time hasn’t really done anything for me personally, I know that it’s a great tool for parents (as long as kids follow the rules). Being able to set up app time limits, and Downtime to get some distance from the phone. The tools can be worthwhile for parents, especially if they’d like some help keeping tabs on how often their kid(s) use the phone or tablet, and being able to make adjustments based on that data.
Both Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing are fledgling apps/services, and there’s plenty of room for improvement to both. But I’m curious: are you happy with your digital health app(s) up to this point? Do you use them often, either for yourself or for your kids? How would you change either app if you could? Let me know!