New Tools Help People Set Tech Boundaries

Screen Time Screen Shot

Hooray for the big tech companies who’ve enhanced their products to offer better customer control.

Apple was surprisingly quick to roll out Screen Time, a feature that iPhone and iPad users automatically receive for free with the iOS12 update. The improvements come only a year after iPod creator Tony Fadell bemoaned “We have zero data on our habits with these devices”. Now you have your data, right down to how often you pick up your phone. You can also track exactly what you do on the device so you can better manage how you spend your time.

A Boon for Parents

Screen Time is especially life-changing for parents who now can oversee all iOS family devices and more easily guide their children to develop positive tech hygiene habits.

Apple was pushed to make the move by health advocates, tech redesign activist Tristan Harris, and even members of Apple’s own boardall concerned about the effects on kids of unbridled use of the company’s products.

Speaking of Digital Wellbeing, that’s the name of Google’s new Android, YouTube and home device management feature, available on the Pixel phone (and hopefully soon on Androids) and in the Play Store.

Even Facebook has added tools for controlling activity and notifications on Facebook and Instagram. If you dig, there are also fairly easy ways to manage data and recordings collected by Amazon’s Alexa products.

Meanwhile, Internet providers such as Verizon and Xfinity have beefed up their WiFi and device parental controls. Xfinity gets extra props because theirs are free.

To know even more, check out Screenagers’ filmmaker Delaney Ruston M.D.’s  exhaustive list of helpful tech management tools.

Toys with Benefits

Some toy companies are becoming more thoughtful. To wit, Mattel, whose Robotics Engineer Barbie is a sight for the sore soul. A far cry from invasive Hello Barbie, Barbie Robotics Engineer brings positive tech skills by including free access to Tynker, a learn-to-code game-based platform for kids.

Robotics Engineer Barbie by Mattel

Design to the Rescue

In How To Be a Durable Human I applaud the durable human design of my go-to,  DuckDuckGo, a search engine alternative to Google:

“Just knowing DuckDuckGo exists gives me hope that, as more products come out that threaten to gobble up our time and autonomy, enlightened professional designers will come to the rescue with ways to fight back.”

So thanks, tech design professionals, for all your nifty new improvements!

Now, all we have to do is use them.

About the author: Jenifer Joy Madden is a health journalist, digital media professor, and parent of three durable young adults. Her words have informed millions on news outlets including ABC News, The Washington Post, and in her books, How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design and The Durable Human Manifesto: Practical Wisdom for Living and Parenting in the Digital World.

Download The Durable Human Manifesto for free here.

Learn more about this author on Google+.

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