girl using iPhone

Get off your phone!

The battle is constant. “Sally, get off your phone!” “Jake, quit playing “Fortnite!” “Honey, can you put down your phone, so we can actually have a conversation?” I must admit that last request goes both ways in our household. Parent or grandparent, spouse or friend—we can all relate to spending too much time on our phones, whether by checking work emails, looking at Facebook, watching YouTube videos, etc. You get the drift; you’ve been there. All too often, we ignore people or feel ignored by people because of excessive screen time. Ironically, devices that were specifically designed to keep us in constant communication with the world often leave us feeling more isolated in our immediate surroundings.
 
            So, how do we combat the “too much screen time” problem? Cue the Bat signal! Oddly enough, Apple and Google have come to the rescue. As part of its iOS 12 software update, Apple has created new features that allow parents to more closely monitor and control their child’s screen time. Google has developed similar features, which can be found on Android phones. So, how do these new settings work and how do you get them? 
 
            First, you must install the above updates on all phones and devices—your own and your child’s. After the install, you can access the “screen time” feature to check which apps and websites your child is looking at on their personal device. The feature also records the amount of time spent on each app. The iOS update allows parents to set “app limits,” which effectively restricts your child from downloading and using certain types of apps. Most importantly, the new software allows parents to designate a particular time of the day as “downtime,” making certain apps and notifications inaccessible for that block of time.
            
            These new tools are especially useful because they’re so customizable. Giving up phones after school or at bedtime can be a struggle, especially when you want to encourage a child to read or engage in another productive activity. These new features not only allow parents to render certain apps unavailable during downtime, but also allow parents to make apps like “iBooks” constantly available. Parents can make individual decisions about each child and each device, and given the wide age range in my family, this capability is particularly useful. 
 
            Now, I would be remiss if I did not state that adults can use these same features to help fight their own “too much screen time” battle. Just as with your children, you can shut down the notifications feature on your phone at nighttime, so that you, too, can avoid waking up from unwelcome dings at 3 a.m.  Similarly, you can check to see how much time you’ve spent on Instagram while you’ve been at the office—yeah, you know you’ve been bad.
 
            On the whole, these new software features will help the screen addict, young or old, both by restricting access and by creating greater awareness. Now, who would’ve thought that Apple and Google would want us to spend less time on their devices? Certainly not me, but my hat’s off to them for their efforts.