iPhone’s Screen Time feature: can it make any difference?

With the rapid increase of technology that has occurred just in the last decade, it comes to no surprise that we find ourselves to be living in an increasingly technology and media-dominated society. Smartphones and various other forms of technology have become staples in our everyday lives. All this development brings about the concern that we are perhaps becoming too dependent on these devices and are wasting away our time on them.

In January, Apple rolled out its newest update and introduced users to the feature of Screen Time. This feature tracks the amount of time a user spends on their phones, documenting and separating this usage into different categories such as entertainment, social networking, gaming etc. By opening the feature in their settings, users are able to see just how much time they are spending on their phones and, more importantly, on what. The new Screen Time feature allows for both individuals and families to manage and set limits for how much time is allocated for each type of app usage.

The feature is being advertised to appeal to families, particularly those who wish to exercise control of the amount of screen time their child is exposed to. For young children, at the swipe of a finger, hours and hours of YouTube videos are instantly available and the opportunity to waste away time and find damaging material.

In this new generation, parents are increasingly trying to move their kids away from the temptations and expedience of iPads or television. However, this new feature may impact more than just the media consumption of children.

Through Screen Time, many users are perhaps finally becoming aware of just how much time they spend on their phones – which we could all do with knowing. It also brings to attention the fact that we are becomingly more and more dependent on the convenience of technology.

Some users might see the addition of Screen Time to be something beneficial as they can now have external reminders about usage limits and consequently, know how to better control their productivity and time. Perhaps, for many, this may be the first step in helping to move away from the fast-paced, media-dominated world we find ourselves living in.

For others, however, the addition of this feature may not have any significant impact on their personal smartphone usage. For some, the data may just be taken in stride, something that is not really thought about or taken into much consideration. Screen Time does offer the option of being turned off. The idea of being able to see how many hours you spend on your phone can be quite terrifying. We might not want to know the answers or like the reality we are presented with.

The overall impact of this feature of Screen Time is to progress a discussion around what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle in relation to technology. Screen Time is obviously meant to encourage less time spent looking at a screen, with shocking users with the sheer amount of time that is spent on smartphones and tablets. It is through this stark presentation of the facts and data that the feature is trying to appease the critics of technology, as it is trying to show that at least the makers behind technology are aware of its addictive properties.

As smartphones are increasingly made ‘smarter,’ it is all too easy to get caught up in the quick spread and receiving of information that we are now accustomed to. Technology becoming even more convenient for users seems to be the current path being taken to try and curb the notion of technology, and with it a constant stream of media and communication, being all-consuming. Awareness of the time we spend on our technology may not be a bad thing. Our phones, tablets, and computers are so much a part of our everyday life it is at least interesting to see where all those hours went and whether we were using our time most productively.

Regardless of how much influence the new Screen Time feature actually has on users, Apple’s introduction of the concept of tracking our daily screen consumption is a step in the right direction. We could all do with stepping back and examining our time spent on technology, with time on social media being of particular concern. By being presented with the time we spend on our phones and computers, we can evaluate how we really want to be using our technology in the most productive manner.

Image: New Range Rover Evoque Autobiography via Wikimedia Commons  

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