Instagram and Facebook jointly announced on August 1st that they will be rolling out new dashboards to help users monitor and better manage their time on the sites, as well as new features to reduce notifications.
Unveiled on Facebook’s newsroom blog, the new dashboards will be available via the settings menu on all Facebook and Instagram websites and mobile device apps.
‘We want the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring. Our hope is that these tools give people more control over the time they spend on our platforms and also foster conversations between parents and teens about the online habits that are right for them,’ said the post, which was jointly published by Ameet Ranadive, Product Development Manager at Facebook, and David Ginsberg, Director of Research at Facebook.
The new features include a page -- ‘Your Time On Facebook’ or ‘Your Activity’ on Instagram -- that show total usage per day as well as your daily activity average. Below the graph is a new reminder feature that allows users to set an alert that will go off if they surpass the amount of time they set for themselves each day. A new ‘Mute Push Notifications’ setting will also be added to the Notifications Settings.
Facebook and Instagram are only the latest technology companies to announce screen time monitoring and limitation features. Google is including a new Android Dashboard feature on its Android P update rolling out this autumn that allows users to see and manage their total usage, usage by app, and notifications received. It also keeps track of how many times users unlock their phones per day and gives users new tools for reducing notifications
Apple’s new Screen Time feature on iOS 12 launching this autumn operates similarly. It allows users to schedule Downtime, where certain apps can be made unavailable without a passcode, and set limits for specific apps.
These new tools come at a time when technology addiction, particularly among teenagers and young adults, is becoming more widely recognised. Adults in richer countries already spend an average of five to seven hours a day on their smartphones, and one study in America showed that adults check their phones on average 47 times a day.
The launch of screen time monitoring features by Facebook and Instagram is in some ways surprising. Unlike software and hardware sellers like Google and Apple, their business models rely primarily on advertising revenues. If users spend less time on the websites that revenue could be undermined, or at least grow less quickly.
Even so, the companies indicated that the needs and concerns of users had driven the development of the new features.
‘We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organisations, academics, our own extensive research and feedback from our community.
We have a responsibility to help people understand how much time they spend on our platforms so they can better manage their experience.”