Three Realizations After I Used Apple’s New Screen Time Feature

As we continue to pick up new inventions in this digital age, I wonder, how invested we’ve become in technology? From beepers to cell phones, personal computers to tablets, where are we now?

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According to the 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media.

That’s a ton: almost half the day.

Narrowing in on this idea even further, I started thinking about where my time was being spent interacting with media. I was pretty excited when Apple announced its Screen Time Feature along with Application Limits in iOS 12. According to the announcement, “Screen Time creates detailed daily and weekly Activity Reports that show the total time a person spends in each app they use, their usage across categories of apps, how many notifications they receive and how often they pick up their iPhone or iPad.”

I immediately started playing around with the function and realized the hardest part was deciding which applications were non-essential. It forced me to think about my habits and if I needed to be using certain applications – not just aimlessly scrolling.

Additionally, Application Limits are great to use if you’d like to control your time spent in applications. For me, Instagram was (still is) the most frequently used application and one that I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s terrible to scroll through the ‘gram and laugh at meme accounts. I do think it’s something to consider if you’re in an environment with other people such as family, friends or a significant other.

Are you scrolling during dinner? Are you scrolling while someone wants to talk to you (face to face)? Are you scrolling while watching your kids play? Are you scrolling through Amazon while spending quality time with others? Are you scrolling instead of being present and engaged?

Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances where multitasking makes sense and that’s the convenience factor of all these gadgets we love. But sometimes it’s worth taking a pause.

I used these new features over the last month and came to a few realizations that I’d like to share:

One | My Time Was Spent Where?!

I was surprised by how much time I spent in each category the first few days. Even after a month, here are some highlights from last week:

  • Social Networking: 11 hours and 30 minutes, which includes Messages, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

  • Pickups (how often I reached for my device): 723, averaging 103 times per day

  • Notifications: 1,049, averaging 149 per day

Over the last few weeks, I thought about ways I could change my behavior and could reduce the hours spent looking at my phone.

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I’m sure many of you can relate to this scenario: You’re working on a project at work or at home but you’ve hit a wall. You’re trying to push through but maybe you’re not sure what the next step should be. While pondering, your eyes wander to your phone but the screen is blank. You tap it for notifications but nothing’s there. You open it anyways and scroll through a favorite app. At this point, you’re just wasting time and want to distract yourself.

We’ve all been there. But what does that really tell us about how we’re spending our time? Sometimes, we do need the distraction but other times it’s too easy to get away from what’s right in front us.

Next time, I challenge you (as I’ve been challenging myself) to think of an alternative to picking up your phone. Maybe you try the project from a different angle or check your work emails to see if anything’s urgent. At the very least, take a moment to consider where your focus should be.

Two | I Missed Things (But that’s OK)

With Application Limits turned on, I had days where I didn’t look at Instagram or I used the 15 minutes before the application was blocked again. Honestly, it was a great reminder of how long I had been scrolling and how quickly those “moments” went by.

I also read through my emails at night instead of during the day. Sure, I missed sale notifications from Madewell or Macy’s or from Ticketmaster listing the latest events (which may have been a good thing). BUT it wasn’t the end of the world. Believe me, in a world full of technology and increased access, people can and will get a hold of you if it’s important. So why stress about 5 or 15 notifications? Trust yourself to place importance on the right notifications.

Three | There’s Room for Growth

I don’t think the Screen Time or Application Limit feature is going to change people’s behavior overnight. Truthfully, you can ignore the application limits all day, defeating the purpose of the function.

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The beauty of Apple rolling out these features is how much it’s needed - especially as technology becomes an integral part of everyone’s lives. It’s in its infancy as a function and more questions surround them than answers. It’s a simplified report of technology use that puts the user at the center, giving them control of their media exposure beyond plain old self-control. Sure, there’s room for growth but it’s encouraging conversation at home about technology use.

Everyone should take a closer look at where they spend their time, money and energy, especially on technology.