Technology develops very fast these days. New gadgets and software solutions appear almost every week. We like their functionality and the benefits they give us. But the paradox is that the more we use our mobile phones and tablets the more potential we have to become addicted to them. This leaves us asking how to cure phone addiction or other forms of technology addiction.
How to cure phone addiction
Parental control software like ours are one attempt to resolve this conflict, at least for our kids. Bryan Clark, editor for The Next Web, thinks there might be another option though. His idea is that the Apple Watch (or other similar devices) can help by allowing people to answer calls and text messages without the temptation to stay longer on the screen to check Facebook or other social media. So you still have control over your device but there is less chance that you will allow it to distract you.
I really like the idea. Clark properly recognises the potential problems screen time poses and the solution makes a lot of sense. It allows partial connectivity to the things we consider most important while limiting our ability to access time wasters. In fact, it’s not just a nice theory. I’ve seen 1st hand that a smartwatch can help reduce unnecessary smartphone usage among friends and colleagues. It’s a big motivator for me to get a smartwatch for myself.
The smartwatch really comes into its own as a sort of filter for notifications. It tells you when there’s something that’s really worth getting your phone out for. A call, urgent texts or emails. As Clark suggests, the watch can let you know about your new messages, likes and so on, whilst making it uncomfortable to respond immediately. It’s comforting to know what’s happening. You don’t worry about missing anything, but at the same time you don’t feel so incentivised to respond immediately.
Our kids are potentially even more vulnerable to the problems associated with excessive device use though. My main question then, is whether or not use of a smartwatch can help keep Their screen time under control?
Will it work for kids?
Unfortunately, I think that the answer has to be no. As a solution to excessive screen time, smartwatches are a better fit for adult device users than for kids. For teens it’s more of an open question. It depends how they usually use their device. If their primary use of their device is for communication, then a smartwatch might well help reduce screen time.
There are a number of reasons for this conclusion:
- First off, using a smartwatch as a screen time reducer assumes that you’ll be assuaged by simply seeing notifications about new messages. Children often have different priorities to adults. As far as many young kids are concerned, mobile devices are primarily video players, gaming devices, cameras or music players. They’re less likely to be ‘hooked’ on social networks and messaging services, if only because they’re too young to sign up for accounts.
- Secondly, while you might be able to encourage your kids to use educational apps, classroom tools or personal organiser apps, few of these are likely to be supported by smartwatch anyway.
- Thirdly, this method relies on a certain amount of self control. For it to be effective with a child they would have to a) recognise excessive screen time as a problem and b) be an active, willing participant in the solving of that problem. If they’re not on board, they may well use the notifications on the watch as a prompt to get their phone out.
And if you’re still not persuaded, and you’re willing to shell out for a smartwatch for your child… go ahead and let us know how it goes! We’re always keen to hear about new ways to manage screen time and it’s associated problems.
The right tool for the right job
As a parent I don’t use parental controls simply to hide certain apps from my kids. My aim is to teach them to become more responsible and self disciplined in this area of their life for themselves. To achieve this, parental controls (or smartwatches) inevitably need to be accompanied by basic rules of screen time etiquette and ongoing conversation about the role of technology in the life of my kids.
Whatever method you think is right for your family, dealing with screen time requires an intentional approach. Do you use a smartwatch to control your personal screen time? Would you consider getting one for your child too? Let us know in the comments below.