Google has new apps to help users learn responsible device use-but can they actually help?
Google has launched three new Android app "experiments" to complement its already existing digital detox apps.
The new apps each present a novel way to avoid overusing your smartphone:
Those interested in trying them out can follow the links above to learn more about the apps, and from there click on "Launch Experiment" to be redirected to the Google Play app page.
Digital detoxing is a good idea for everyone once in a while--but is a tech company that produces the devices we're all so hooked on the right place to look for help? Bethany Baker and Natalie Sexton of A-Gap, a nonprofit that aims to help people reduce their addiction to tech, don't think so.
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"These apps are a great first step, but only if you already have a good relationship with technology," Sexton said. Those who aren't aware that their smartphone use has reached excessive levels aren't necessarily going to be able to use an app to curb overuse.
A study covered by TechRepublic sister site CNET backs Sexton and Baker up: It found that 54% of people who tried cutting back on tech didn't end up spending less time on their devices.
The key to building a healthy relationship with technology isn't to use it to help you cut back, but to do a "digital reset," said Baker.
A-Gap offers weekend camps where participants can get back to nature and set aside gadgets, and at the end of the event can look at their smartphones with new eyes.
"Picking up your phone after not using it for three days can help you realize it was becoming a crutch," Baker said.
Practical ways to reduce your smartphone addiction
A-Gap's retreats aren't expensive, but if they aren't located in your neck of the woods attending one might not be practical. That doesn't mean you can't have your own cold-turkey weekend, or even follow some practical tips for making tech less of a distraction and more of a tool.
"We understand that tech isn't going away, and we don't want it to," Baker said. "What we do want to do is help people understand that overuse can be harmful and help them establish a healthier relationship with the tech in their lives."
To do so, Baker offers the following non-app based tips:
If you want to have a healthy relationship with tech the first step is to learn to experience life without it. Once you know what it's like to enjoy the world without tech it's easier to use apps like Google's new ones to keep you in a good place rather than expecting your phone to help you improve.