Smartphones Are Everywhere

Screen time, social media, and technology addiction are becoming an increasing concern for parentsphysicians, and mental health experts. Just look around you. Whether you’re at work, out in public, and even at your dinner table, almost everyone is probably looking at a screen. While technology has made important strides in connecting the world, increased access to the world’s collected knowledge, and made our lives more convenient, the ever-present role these devices have had in our lives over the last decade is giving some pause. Perhaps in response to these growing concerns from medical professionals and parents, both Apple and Google have recently announced plans to adopt screen time controls into the latest versions of their mobile operating systems. Considering over 2 billion people use smartphones globally, it may be a good time to start.

Digital Wellbeing

In May Google announced Android P, the latest version of Android, its popular mobile operating system. In their marketing for Android P Google says “Technology should help you with your life, not distract you from it.” Under the banner of “digital wellbeing”, Android P will include a dashboard for users that will show them how much time they spend on their device. This dashboard will include information about how much time spent using various apps, how often they unlock their phones, and how many notifications they receive during the day. Users will be able to set time limits on their app usage, have more granular control over their Do Not Disturb settings, as well as the ability to automatically dim their screen at the end of the day. These new features will join Family Link, an app Google introduced last year to give parents control over their kids’ devices.

Screen Time

This week Apple made their own upgrade plans for iOS public with the announcement of iOS 12. Apple’s marketing says “Apps help us do so many extraordinary things that we can sometimes lose track of how much we use them.” Their answer is Screen Time, a feature built into the upcoming version of iOS. Screen Time brings parental controls to your iPhone without the need for a separate device or app. A dashboard provides a breakdown of previous day and previous week app usage. It will also allow parents to monitor how their kids are using their devices, provide time ‘allowances’, and the ability to limit access to certain apps and content. Kids will receive gentle reminders via “time checks” to help them monitor their usage.

Take Time For Togetherness

As the technology revolution and the proliferation of the smartphone continues we are increasingly living in a digital world. Children born during this time will not know a world without the internet or tiny black screens everywhere. While it is important for companies like Apple and Google to introduce tools that can help us better understand your family’s usage of these devices there are simple steps you can take to be more intentional about screen time. Partner with your kids to establish clear, responsible rules about screen time. Take time to understand your children’s interests so you can be more aware and involved in what they are doing online. Model appropriate and acceptable use by putting your phone down when you are having a conversation and be present and fully engaged in the moment. Take some time for togetherness.