Google has new apps to help users learn how to use responsible tools - but can they really help?

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Will sealing your smartphone inside an envelope help you to learn digital self-control? Probably not, say detox tech experts.

Google has launched three new Android "test" apps to add to existing digital detox apps.

Each of the new apps features a new way of overuse your smartphone:

  • Screen Stopwatch turns the background of an unlocked Android device into a timer that counts when the screen is unlocked;
  • Activity Bubbles adds a small bubble to the background of your Android device every time the phone is unlocked. Each bubble grows depending on how long that phone session lasts; and
  • Envelope asks users to wrap a printed PDF into an envelope to lock their phone off and turn it into a minimal device that only allows calls, photos and videos (available for the Google Pixel 3a only).

Those interested in trying out can follow the links above to learn more about the apps, from there click on “Launch Experiment” to be redirected to the Google Play app page.

Digital detoxing is a great idea for everyone once in a while - but is it a technical company that makes the tools we are all so attached to the right place to seek help? Don’t think of Bethany Baker and Natalie Sexton of A-Gap, a nonprofit organization that aims to help people reduce their tech slavery.

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"These apps are a good first step, but only if you already have a good connection to technology," said Sexton. to be able to use an app to prevent overuse.

A study covered by CNET's TechRepublic sister site supports Sexton and Baker: It found that 54% of people who tried to cut back on technology spent less time on their devices .

The key to building a healthy relationship with technology is not 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 devices, and at the end of the event they can look at their smartphones with new eyes.

“Picking up your phone after not using it for three days will help you realize that it was becoming a crutch,” Baker said.


    Practical ways to reduce your smartphone addiction

    A-Gap descent is not expensive, but if they are not located in your neck in the woods it may not be practical. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your own cold turkey weekend, or even follow some practical tips for making technology less of a distraction and more of a tool.

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    "We understand that technology is not going away, and we do not want it," said Baker. "What we want to do is help people understand that overuse can be harmful and help them to establish a healthier relationship with technology in their lives. ”

    To do so, Baker offers the following non-established suggestions:

    • Embrace the Happiness of Missing Out (JOMO): Get rid of online noise, social media stress, and digital distraction, and replace it with real-world experiences such as volunteering or start a new hobby.
    • Challenge yourself to go longer and longer periods without your phone - the goal should be a whole weekend.
    • Take mini-detoxes into your day, such as without phones at mealtimes, or without social networks after 6pm.
    • Take a walk to experience nature and get back to living in the present day by leaving your smartphone at home.
    • Embed digital minimalism by substituting digital promises such as texts and face time for hanging out in person (without your phone).
    • Fight “phubbing,” or distract the person with you for your phone, but don't let it get used to when you're with a friend or loved one.
    • Leave your phone around the room and turn off calls - so you have to make an effort to check it.
    • Do not sleep in the same room as your phone.
    • Complete the screen time before going to bed and when you wake up in the morning. This will help you sleep better, and will give you more focus on the present day when you wake up.
    • Find a club, group, or social hobby that you can take away from your phone.

    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 technology, it's easier to use apps like Google's new ones to keep you in a good place rather than expect your phone to help you improve.

    See also

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