The average American spends three hours a day, equivalent to 45 days of the year, looking at their smartphone, according to a new report from mobile device data site AppAnnie.com. While it sounds alarming — and is a strong reflection of how rapidly engagement with mobile technologies has changed — it should be interpreted as a call for discernment in how phones are used.
With documented evidence showing how addictive mobile phones are, an invitation to step away is in proper order. If you feel endlessly tied to technology, try putting down the phone for one hour a day, one day a week and one week a year.
At stake is the chance to reconnect on a personal level. That's imperative, given possible links between technological innovation and a rise in anxiety, depression and loneliness. Cutting back on screen dependence could be a good place to start alleviating these societal effects.
The report reveals valuable insight on how society is spending its time and money. It found smartphone users spend 90 percent of their time on their phones using apps — not mobile internet browsers. Spending on apps has also increased dramatically — Cyber Monday alone saw in-app game purchases up by 45 percent and mobile e-commerce sales nearing $8 billion. Users also spent most of their time streaming video, with nearly 20 billion hours collectively spent on apps like Netflix and YouTube.
These numbers probably come as no surprise. Most people can count themselves as contributors to those statistics. Advertising agencies have long tracked the shift toward mobile; marketers keep close tabs on how users access and consume information. Companies like Apple have now made information about screen time more readily available to the general public with iPhone users able to receive metrics on their own screen time from an app on their phone.
Users should thoughtfully consider how they spend their time online. Apps like the built-in iPhone option are readily available, but simply becoming more conscious of time spent staring at the screen is beneficial.1 comment on this story
Tom Meservy, associate professor at Brigham Young University's department of information systems, told the Deseret News that being more aware of screen time is an exercise in “digital maturity.” This kind of intentional usage “is about knowing who and where and how to use the technology. … It's not the hours on the device, it's what you're doing and what it is substituting for," Meservy said. It may not be necessary to stop using phones or social media altogether, but it is wise to take a step back and see room for improvement.
Mobile phones have connected billions of people around the world and have increased the productivity of many. They have created rapid growth opportunities. But beyond the good is the reality that they are absorbing more time than ever before.
Setting aside the phone and talking to a loved one, a neighbor, a friend or even just writing in a journal could prove a fitting antidote to today's excessive screen time.