Week 3 – Bad Habits

In week three the focus of the course was on Health and Wellness. I reflected on my own digital use by digging into my iPhone’s Screentime app. My data helped inform me that overall I use my phone more than I assumed (although pleasantly surprised and terrified to realize that my use is actually trending down…).

The fact that smartphones need a tool to remind us about our overuse is reflective of the design of these technologies. Often our digital use is dictated by the specific principles of addiction that software and hardware developers incorporate so that we remain glued to our devices. If it is hard for an adult to reign in their use it must be impossible for students who are still developing their attention spans.

If you understand the tricks that grab your attention you can learn to have a healthier relationship with your phone.


In the following Vox video, Tristan Harris, co-founder of The Center for Humane Technology and a former Google design ethicist explains some tips that people can use to change their behaviour with their phone. He describes three things that people can change in their phone settings that will move us away from addiction.

  1. Turn off all non-human notifications.
  2. Grayscale your screen
  3. Restrict your home screen to everyday tools.
Our devices are intentionally addicting.

What is genuinely worth your attention on an uninterrupted basis?

Tristan Harris

While a person who acknowledges that they have a problem can develop strategies to prevent further addiction, when thinking about our students we must remember that they are often unconvinced that they have a problem and for every video or webpage that advocates for how to put down your phone, there are those that help students bypass and circumvent the strategies that developers and parents put in their way so they can further satiate their click/post desires.

In the ByteScout blogpost entitled How To Bypass Screen Time On iPad Or How Modern Kids Are Hacking Famous Apple’s Parent Control System they at once educate parents and students how to get around the tools Apple provides in their Screentime app.

These include:

  1. Resetting time limit on games and apps by simply re-downloading them from Family shared accounts.
  2. Bypassing lock on YouTube app using iMessage widget for Youtube
  3. Tricking iPad’s Screen Time by system date and time
  4. Bypassing a lock for Safari by running it from Settings via warning icon
  5. Launching Safari from inside of 3rd party apps with built-in browsers
  6. Stealing Screen Time password by recording a video from screen
  7. Resetting Screen Time settings using hard reset

It seems apparent that like any addictive drug the first step is acknowledging you have a problem and it doesn’t seem as though many people want to take that first step. The Center for Humane Technology believes that “while companies have been upgrading technology, they’ve been downgrading humans;” shortening our attention spans, addicting children, and turning life into a competition for likes and shares.

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Week 1 – Are These Digital Challenges Just For Young People?

So far in this course we have looked at what the digital challenges are for today’s youth. In the film InRealLife (2013) the filmmaker takes us through the world of today and sprinkled among the detailed descriptions by youth of what their day to day interactions are with technology we see adult talking heads who affirm that today’s youth are in over their heads when it comes to digital interactions. While the focus of the film is on youth, it’s perhaps wise to realize that we have had intrusive Web2.0 technology for well over 10 years and the high school student career is only three years long. Many of these ‘students’ and ‘youth’ are now adults and the problem is much greater than just that of the young. Many of the problems that affect the youth in the film are the same that affect the teachers who stand before them.

The following video illustrates what is like to move throughout the world without your phone. As exaggerated as they likely want it to seem, the depictions probably hit too close to home for many.

What is the world like when you are the only one who doesn’t have a phone?

But why are we so addicted to checking our phone and why do we engage with these apps despite some of us being aware that they are a time suck, or cause us harm in other ways? Vox tries to help explain why Facebook in particular keeps us attached to it and what some of the dangers to our privacy can be because of these phenomena.

Why are people so inclined to use digital apps and social media?

Finally,a satirical take on our digital interactions is brought into the real world. Is it any wonder that these programs create such anxiety with their users? Aside from the content that we submit to these programs, we must also look at the design and how it affects our use and well-being. When re-framed, these programs are as absurd as they get.

Are these products making our lives easier or are they causing us anxiety?

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