Monday, October 1, 2018

Apple Screen Time a Huge Win for Everyone, Including Parents!

About two weeks ago Apple released their new “Screen Time” feature and it is awesome! It is a huge win for everyone, providing you with personal data at your finger tips on your technology iPhone/iPad use. Fortunately for Droid users Google has announced their own comparable service will be out soon called Digital Wellbeing (great name!), but it is currently only in beta for Google Pixel phone users--hopefully it won’t be too long until it’s released and widely available. 

Value of Personal Data
I’ve written in the past that ability to have personal information is invaluable and eye-opening—it’s one thing to read statistics or advice on how much technology is a part of our lives, but until see your own data it’s pretty hard to fully realize the role that technology plays in your life. Not only can Apple users now see the minutes and hours of screen time used on their iPhone or iPad in the past 24 hours or week, they can also dig into this data by category of apps which will help users understand the difference between educational and entertainment screen time, see the number of times they pick up/turn on their device and the number of notifications they receive. (Read more about decreasing technology's interruptions.) Parents can set limits, block apps individually or by category, use Restrictions to filter explicit language and adult web content, and even use Family Sharing to monitor their children’s personal device and change these settings remotely.
Family Sharing
An additional win for parents is the ability to see the Screen Time data of each of your children's personal devices when you set up Family Sharing. You can also remotely set up Time Limits, block and/or allow certain apps, and all of Apple's Restriction tools possible beforehand are now part of this iOS 12 Screen Time feature. I tested this out over the past two weeks and initially it was great. Unfortunately viewing the screen time data for individual children stopped working about a week ago. I now have to look at each child’s phone to see these metrics--which certainly is doable--but not as good as it was designed to work. I have seen posts online from others with the same issue, so I would hope this glitch gets fixed in iOS 12.1. I also learned that viewing screen time only works for personal devices, not not for school managed devices like our 1:1 iPad program. I’ve given Apple feedback that parents would like to be able to use this feature-- you should, too!

Great Conversation Starters
I’ve also written about the importance of connecting with those around you--being where your feet are--rather than distracted by technology. Last night I sat with my kids as we compared our Screen Time statistics with one another, seeing how many times how much time we spent on our phones, which tools we use, who had the most or at least pick ups and notifications. Conversations like this before iOS 12 and screen time certainly were possible but wasn’t informed with the facts right in front of us. Now conversations can move from speculative to factual and we were able to directly talk about ways to change things, which is exactly what parents need to be talking about with their kids! (Another tip related to technology conversations with kids I’ve written about in the past is to begin conversations with “What if..?”)

No Third Party App Needed
Before this release of Screen Time baked right into the Apple operating system, users had to go through extra steps which could be quite cumbersome, such as installing a third-party app that required profiles and permissions in order to work properly, and even then the data wasn’t as accurate as one would like. A few years ago I recommended some of these third-party tools such as Curbi and Moment. More recently I’ve just been steering people toward viewing their battery usage to see how many minutes per day or week they’re using apps. Now with the launch of Apple Screen Time these tools are easily available and simply run in the background without the hassle of third party apps and accounts. I wish this had been available years ago—but better late than never! If you are currently using a third party app, take a close look at what value it still has to decide whether or not to continue using it.

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