Apple just rolled out their highly anticipated iOS 12 with new features designed for maintaining digital health. In combination with enhanced Do Not Disturb and Notifications features, Apple is introducing a new function called I Know What You’ve Been Doing... em, actually it's called Screen Time.
The Screen Time function is for anyone who loses track of how much time they’re actually on their phones or tablets (which is to say, most of us). Now, instead of just guessing how long I’ve been scrolling, swiping and clicking, I can know exactly how much of my life is spent looking at a screen — and exactly what I’ve spent all of my time looking at and engaging with.
Oh. My. God.
Do I really want to know how long I spent watching movie trailers on IMDb? Or how long I was shopping for flannel sheets and fall décor on the Target website? Will I be shocked to know how many times a day I pick up my phone to play Words With Friends or read Facebook updates? Can any good come of knowing just how many time sucking apps I engage with on a weekly basis and how much of my one precious life all of this digital ephemera consumes?
I’m not an alarmist when it comes to technology — I embrace new tech and encourage my children to use it — but I do know I am on my phone more than I want to be and I will be using Screen Time, even if it makes me cringe.
I’m not sure I fall into the category of “smartphone addiction,” but I’d like to cut back on my phone usage and free up some of my time — something I never seem to have enough of as a mom.
I’ll be using Screen Time for my kids, too. I know parents who take an all-or-none approach to technology, but somewhere between unlimited screens and no screens until they’re in high school is a happy, healthy balance. I see Screen Time as an insightful guide to finding that balance — a digital scale meant to educate and inform, rather than to shame and scold.
Using Screen Time analytics to manage my screen usage will be scary at first, but it will also be liberating if I let it guide me toward healthier screen usage.
Now I’ll have an excuse for not answering emails or texts: “Sorry, I’ve reached my screen limit for today, but I’ll respond to you first thing tomorrow.” And that political debate on Facebook will just have to wait once I’ve reached my self-imposed Screen Time limit.
As for the kids, Screen Time will benefit them, too. I’ll use it to model good digital behavior for my children, letting Screen Time embarrass me into being “good.”
Of course, I don’t want to use Screen Time to nag my kids to stop playing Minecraft any more than I want to make myself feel bad for the ridiculous amount of time I spend on Pinterest. But much like a fitness tracker encourages and monitors physical activity, seeing my screen time usage in cold, hard digital numbers will encourage me to put down the screen and do something else. Anything else.
Because let’s face it: I’d rather watch "The Great British Bake Off" anyway. Or maybe even read one of the books piling up on my bedside table.