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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