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We frequently advocate for using technology to help protect against social media-related dangers.  And, preventing or reducing excessive social media use and excessive screen time is a great application of safe technology.  So, here is our latest tip.  

Recently, Apple came out with iOS 14, which allows users to add widgets to their home screen.  A widget is an element that displays information or provides a specific way for a user to interact with the operating system or an application.  Basically, it is a block of constantly updating information on your device.  The ability to place a widget or two on our phone’s home screen allows us to frequently see important information; whereas, previously, we had to swipe a few time to get to the “widget screen”,  which few users ever did. 

Let’s use this ability to combat excessive social media use.  We recommend adding a widget to your home screen from Apple’s Screen Time program.  The Screen Time program has a number of great features, and one of those features provides information on how much time you are using your devices for and with which apps.  So, we are going to place the Screen Time widget on the home screen of our phones, and our children’s phones if they have them, to provide frequent feedback on device usage.

Feedback is a key, perhaps essential, component of maintaining a healthy amount of social media and screen time use.  We have run enough experiements at the Organization for Social Media Safety to know that most of us, including our children, do not actually want to be on our devices and social media as much as we actually are.  But, social media is addictive.  We lose track of our time, and in the process, we miss out on other activities that are more fulfilling or important.  Most of us do not even know how much time we are actually on our devices for — by a large margin.  By creating routines or hacks that provide daily usage feedback, we, and our children, can better manage and regulate the amount of time we are on our devices and social media platforms because we can see how much time we are actually using up on them.  

Follow the steps below and you will end up with a Screen Time widget like the picture above or on the left of this article (which indicates 3 hours and 11 minutes of usage throughout the day.)  You can also see quickly the types of apps you are using.  In the picture, dark blue represents social media use.  

How To Do It:

  1. Make sure you have updated to the latest iOS version.  Go to Settings > General > Software Update and click Download and Install.
  2. Go to the Home Screen of your child’s or your iPhone.  
  3. Hold your finger on any of the apps on your screen until a small menu appears under the app.  Click Edit Home Screen.  The menu will disapper and all the apps on your home screen will start shaking. 
  4. Click the + symbol in the top left corner of the phone.  This will bring up a new page with a search box at top that says “Search Widgets“. 
  5. Enter “Screen Time” in the search box and then click on the Screen Time icon when it appears.  
  6. Click Add Widget at the bottom of the next screen.
  7. Now just drag the widget to where you want it on the home screen like we did in the picture on the left.  You are done and now receiving feedback on usage!

For more information on how to use the information from Screen Time to combat social media addiction, see one of our most popular tips for parents: The Family Phone Time Challenge.

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