Far too many people, particularly young adults and children, are spending too much time on screens and not engaging with the world around them. We’re currently in an era where children especially will spend hours sitting in front of a screen consuming content, usually videos and games, and this is having huge impacts on development and social skills.
As technology becomes more integral to everything we do, creating the line and balance between screen time and the real world is vital. Technology should be used to improve life, not distract from it and tech giants are becoming more committed to giving everyone the tools they need to develop a sense of digital wellbeing. Life, rather than the technology in it, should remain front and centre.
Whilst it might sound counter-intuitive, Google has recently developed three new apps – Envelope, Screen Stopwatch and Activity Bubbles – which have been designed to reduce screen time. Google’s Digital Wellbeing initiative was launched a few years ago in an attempt to get phone users to take notice as to how often they are on their devices. Although this is slightly ironic coming from perhaps the largest tech company in the world, it is interesting to see the ways that apps are being used to curb technology and phone addiction.
Envelope is perhaps the strangest of the three apps. Its premise involves printing and folding an envelope for your phone and it turns your phone into a “dumb” device, which can only be used for phone calls, checking the time or using the camera. In order to get access to your phone, you need to open the envelope. Google created this in the hope that users would go a full day without breaking the envelope seal. Currently, Envelope only works on the Google Pixel 3a at the moment.
Activity Bubbles was created by Google to “help you discover what your phone usage looks like during the day”. Every time you unlock your phone, you create a new bubble and the longer you use your device for, the bigger the bubble grows. If you continue to use your phone, then the bubbles will continue to grow and expand until they have taken over the whole of your phone screen background.
This app tells you in large bold numbers just how long you have spent on your phone in real-time. Google designed this as a way to make it difficult for you to ignore your phone addiction or usage and each time you unlock your phone, the stopwatch will continue to count down.
What other methods are there?
There has been an increasing level of concern that we are spending too much time on mobile devices which is becoming detrimental to our health and wellbeing. Many of us often spend our leisure time on screens and devices, whether it be watching TV, playing video games or browsing social media and digital interactions have quickly replaced a lot of real-life interactions.
Although Google Digital Wellbeing apps are currently only available on Pixel phones and Android devices, there are a number of other ways you can monitor your phone and device usage. Your phone or device will likely already be monitoring your usage, to a certain extent, and will likely be logging app usage and the daily time spent on the device. App developers are releasing more and more digital wellness apps to help curb the widespread problem with digital addiction, whether it be apps that monitor your app usage or an app which blocks access to certain sites, such as Facebook and Youtube.
App development London, California and Tokyo based are becoming more aware of the growing issue that people as a whole are using and digesting content via phones and devices, meaning that they are adapting their processes. If you are concerned with how much time you spend on digital devices, then you can start a “digital detox” by unplugging more often, minimising your daily distractions and finding a balance with your friends and family.