Why can app timers backfire according to science?

Why can app timers backfire according to science?


This article is a preview of The Tech Friend newsletter. Register here to receive it in your mailbox every Tuesday and Friday.

If you want to reduce the time you spend watching YouTube or scrolling through Instagram, you can use the features of these apps to stop after, say, more than an hour a day.

Seems like common sense. But new research has found that time limits like those on apps can backfire.

When participants in a series of research experiments used time-limiting features, they tended to spend more time spent on digital activities, not less.

I’ve heard from readers who say that app timers work for them. Large! Like any self-control strategy, some people who track how much they use Instagram or Twitter find that it helps them cut back.

However, this research found that most of us think that app time limits mean we spend less time on a particular app – and we’re usually wrong.

[Read Tuesday’s Tech Friend: Are you mindlessly scrolling? Here’s how to tame your bad tech habit.]

This research provides evidence that monitoring what we do with technology does not necessarily change our behavior. Tracking our physical activity, food intake, or sleep alone has generally not been shown to be effective in helping us lose weight, eat less, or sleep better.

If app time tracking also undermines our intentions, then we and the tech industry need to rethink the fundamental belief that more information is the ticket to self-improvement.

In the first of a series of research experiments, participants used TikTok regularly for a few days and were then asked to set a daily time limit for themselves on the app. (The most popular time limit was 60 minutes.)

See also  Android and iOS users should uninstall these 203 apps before draining their bank accounts

On average, participants spent about 7 percent more time on TikTok the day after the time limit was set.

The researchers didn’t put it that way, but I imagined that the app’s timers acted on us like a speed limit sign. If the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, we often go up to that or faster. If there were no signs at all, it would have been possible to drive 30 miles per hour.

The researchers compared our behavior to app timers and household budgets. You can decide to spend $200 a month on clothes and then up to that limit.

The other research experiments did not involve TikTok and tested different approaches to time management for digital activities. They reached a similar conclusion: timed application limits tended to result in people spending more time on a given activity, rather than less.

“It’s not that these tools can’t help, but not by themselves,” said Jordan Etkin, a professor at Duke University and one of three researchers on the application timing study.

You can read the draft of the research paper here. This is preliminary and has not yet been published in a scientific journal. The other two co-authors are Jackie Silverman of the University of Delaware and Shalena Srna, who was recently a professor at the University of Michigan.

If you want to spend less time on an app or video game, the research suggests some practical steps.

Compared to people who set relatively high time limits for a digital activity, such as 90 minutes per day, participants who set lower limits tended to spend less time on digital activities. This means that it is better to choose 20 minutes a day for yourself instead of 30.

See also  Make your look cool with your favorite images from your Windows Mail and Calendar apps

Tuesday’s issue of The Tech Friend had more suggestions for reducing online time. You can set a timer to turn off your home internet at 10pm, schedule days off from your app habits, and charge your devices outside of the bedroom.

I know some of you will be angry at the suggestion that you don’t have the willpower to use simple techniques to stop scrolling. But maybe we all need to rethink our beliefs about self-control with technology. (Email your thoughts to [email protected])

If you’re tempted by chocolate cake, you may have strategies to avoid overindulging, Etkin said. Maybe you decide you can’t have chocolate cake in your house. Or maybe you make a deal with yourself or your roommate to only eat chocolate cake on weekends.

We don’t tend to think that technology requires the same self-regulatory strategies, Etkin said. Maybe we also need cake technique with technology. Maybe you need a no-phone rule during dinner, or you need to lock your devices in a drawer at night.

Tech companies are also complicit in our app timer self-delusion. The introduction of these features was among the tech industry’s responses to concerns about technology overuse.

If app timers don’t reduce our online time, we may need different approaches in our families, schools, communities, and laws.

For example, should app timers do more than nudge us – maybe physically disable Instagram on the phone after 60 minutes? Should legislators decide that children cannot use applications for more than an hour a day?

I know these ideas seem like overkill. But if the data now shows that technology for digital self-improvement isn’t doing what we think, then we and the tech industry need to take it seriously.

See also  11 arrests, hundreds of pirate websites, apps and domains blocked * TorrentFreak

Related reading: Will Apple Watch or Fitbit lose weight? Don’t count on it.

Your phone can be a handy replacement for the terrible—really, really terrible—scanners you might have been using at the office or at home.

I like to use the scanning feature of my Android phone’s Google Drive app to make digital copies of my paper bills for expense reports. And I scan financial documents that I still need to sign on paper so that I have a digital copy.

Here’s how to use digital scanning on your phone.

Use the Notes app on iPhone:

Tap the camera icon → Scan documents → point the camera at the page you want to scan → select Save.

To share the scanned document or send it to your computer, tap the Share button (the square with the up arrow) and select Send a copy. You’ll see multiple ways to share, including email and Slack if you have those apps on your device.

For Android phones, use the Google Drive app:

Tap the Plus sign. Select Scan and use the camera to take a picture of the document. Tap Next and the app will create a PDF file from the document.

You can save it as a digital file in Drive or send it via email or to another Google Drive user.

Read more from Tatum: What is a scanner? Generation AZ discovers workplace technology.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *