South Africans are now among the top users of smartphones globally, using them for apps like instant messaging and social media to communicate, other than traditional voice calls. This is according to the South African edition of the Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2017.
The report says 2017 was a significant turning point in the mobile industry; it saw smartphones emerge as the most popular communication device, overtaking feature phones. Interestingly, 82% of us prefer instant messaging, and 74% social networking, when compared with text messages and voice calls.
Given the amount of time we spend on our devices, it’s natural to question whether it has become an addiction. This year, the two biggest mobile operating systems, iOS and Android, came out with tools to monitor how much time we spend on our smartphones.
Apple released its new Screen Time feature in September this year, available on devices that have updated to the latest iOS 12 software. Meanwhile, Google’s Digital Wellbeing on Android 9 Pie will roll out gradually, device and network dependent, in South Africa. It’s currently available on the new Mate 20 Pro.
Read: How much time do you spend on your phone? Now you can track your usage
The new feature can be found under Settings > Screen Time, and has a quick snapshot view of your app usage, in colour-coded graphs. Once you give it a day and week to populate properly, you can see a breakdown of time spent on, for example, social networks, productivity, creativity, which can be accessed per app.
If you find that you’re spending way too many hours – than you care to admit – on Instagram, for example, you can directly adjust the notifications you receive and set limits for yourself per day.
Four new useful subcategories include Downtime; App Limits; Always Allowed; and Content & Privacy Settings. Here you can allow yourself an hour or so a day per social network, always allow access to emails, set your downtime during the evenings or set tighter limits on apps that have access to your location, and so on.
Android 9 Pie
Similarly, Android’s new operating system will have Google’s digital wellbeing features built-in. On the Mate 20 Pro I am using, I can see a Digital Balance menu under Settings, which offers a similar breakdown to iOS.
However, it has three subcategories that include Usage Hours , App Limits and Bedtime . Once you monitor how much time you spend in each app, you can set parameters to manage possible addiction. The Bedtime setting turns the screen from colour to greyscale, which should dissuade you from picking up your smartphone during these preselected hours.
Both systems have tighter parental controls, allowing you to monitor exactly what your child has access to, similar to your own settings. While Google has a separate Family Link app to manage this, iOS has it built-in. Within these controls, you can lock them out of the device during bedtime, school or mealtimes.
Other access restrictions include getting permission for downloading any content (music, games, apps, videos) or just disabling access to content with age restrictions.
Essentially, it is completely safe for your child to use an Android or iOS device, provided you put in the correct limits and monitor what they are doing.