Who among us has not opened our favorite social media application, only to find that 20 (or more) minutes later, we are wondering where the time went? There’s an app for that. It’s called Screen Time, and it’s part of the iOS (iPhone/iPad) systems. This feature does two things. First, it allows your device to track your usage and see where you spend your time. Second, it allows you to set a time limit on certain aspects of your devices and effectively lock yourself out of that category or app after a set amount of time. So, you can evaluate what you are doing and put controls in place to help your self-discipline.
The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem
OK, maybe it’s just me. But I find it too easy to take a mental break and check out what’s going on in the world of sports, social media or (insert your habit here). The Screen Time feature means your device can now show you how addicted you really are to your phone. It can tell you how often you pick it up to check the screen for notifications, how long you use a particular app and other helpful information about your device usage.
Data is important — if you do something with it. That’s why the combination of these two features is helpful. The information that your phone gives you about how are you using it, combined with the limitations for the apps that you may be using more than you want, can be a powerful combination to increase your focus on the important things in life.
Define the scope of the problem
If too much screen time is a problem, step one is to analyze your device usage to determine how big the problem is. This tool is incredibly powerful. It works in the background without you having to do anything. These devices collect a lot of information based on device use. The software running these devices has become more and more adept at detecting patterns of use and suggesting apps based on what you frequently do and when you do it. This kind of artificial intelligence used to be the stuff of movies. It’s now real life.
Open the Settings app on your phone and navigate to Screen Time. Incidentally, if you are in the Settings app, pull the screen down to reveal the search bar. Search for the setting you want, which can be faster than scrolling through the list of settings.
Once you have the Screen Time app open, you will be presented with a few options. If you have previously enabled Screen Time, it will show a summary of how you use your device. If you are enabling it for the first time, just keep using your device as normal and the data will show up the next time you open this setting. Below that, you will see additional options for managing your screen time.
Narrowing the scope
Here is a summary of the options available in the Screen Time app:
• Downtime: This option gives you downtime from your devices. It will essentially shut down the phone, except for phone calls, during the times that you specify.
• App Limits: The App Limits setting allows you to set a time usage limitation by app or group of apps. This is where you can control the time limits associated with your social media applications. The controls for this could be a little bit more flexible, but overall this feature does a good job and will likely get better with each software iteration. For example, the team at Apple decides that certain apps meet the social media qualification. So, when I was recently using Skype to connect with a colleague, something we do on a regular basis, my 15-minute Screen Time limitation was quickly exceeded, halfway through our Skype call. Oops.
• Always Allowed: Like it says, this option allows you to specify those apps that are not controlled by Screen Time.
• Content & Privacy Restrictions: The final option/setting is Content & Privacy Restrictions. This can be helpful, especially with younger members of the family. Take a look at the list here, because there are lots of options you can adjust (or ignore).
What’s the point?
“Control. Control. You must learn control.” — Yoda.
Choose your cliché, but if you don’t control the inputs into your life, they can begin to control you. Screen Time is a great tool to help you be more intentional when using your devices.•
• Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Attorneys in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. He writes about legal technology at sethrwilson.com and is a frequent speaker on the subject. Opinions expressed are those of the author.