New Apple Technology Aims To Address Tech Addiction

By Kelly Burch 06/06/18

“There's clearly users out there worried about the amount of time they're spending, or the amount of distraction or interruptions that they get. So we thought really deeply about this,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

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Smartphones have been blamed for the fact that many people are increasingly reliant on technology, spending hours each day swiping and scrolling. However, the newest software unveiled this week by Apple aims to address concerns over technology addiction by helping iPhone users to more tightly control the time they spend on their phones. 

According to the LA Times, two features in particular aim to help people break from the constant temptation to pick up their phones. Apple started by updating the “Do Not Disturb” setting on the iPhone, which allows people to keep their phones on without receiving noise from notifications. 

Apple also introduced a new feature called Screen Time. This gives users an activity report showing how much time they’re spending on individual apps, how often they pick up their phone and which apps are sending them the most notifications. People can limit the time that they are able to spend on certain apps, and when the time limit is reached the iPhone will not let them access the apps unless they change the setting. 

“There's clearly users out there that are worried about the amount of time they're spending, or the amount of distraction or interruptions that they get. So we thought really deeply about this,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with NPR. “Essentially it's about giving you insight, so you know how much time you're spending, where you're spending it, how many times per hour you're picking up a device, how many notifications you get, who's sending those to you.”

This can empower the user to make their own decision about limiting technology use, he said. 

“Right now we can all almost kid ourselves a bit about how much time we're spending, and whether we're distracted or not. There's nothing like getting a report of facts to see what is happening to you,” he said. 

Asked if he believes that the term “addiction” is appropriate when it comes to technology, Cook hesitated. “I'm not a clinician and so, uh, I don't know. What I do know is, that you can use something too much. And I know some users are—I don't know really what percentage, but I know some users are concerned about it. And I'm concerned about it.”

He rejected the idea of technology as a social ill, but did say that users need to be aware of how their tech use is impacting their lives.  

“I think there are cases in life where anything good, used to the extreme, becomes not good,” he said. 

In addition to empowering users, the new technology will enhance parental controls, something that is important for many parents who worry about their teens’ use of technology. 

“Parents are obviously very interested in having this for their kids as well,” Cook said. “We've been doing things for parental control since the creation of the App Store, but this gives parents another huge tool to use.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.