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How Facebook, Instagram and Apple Are Reducing Your Phone Dependency

Friday 30 November 2018

18 minute read

By Sarah Burns

Yes, we've all been monitoring our screen time, and whether you're ashamed or impressed, it's definitely got you thinking about your relationship with your phone.

We're all starting to develop Smartphone Thumb (yes it's a real thing!), suffering from FOMO ("Fear Of Missing Out") and becoming sleep-deprived. These really are all factors resulting from your smartphone obsession.

However, slowed down smartphones, data leaks and even fake Instagram followers have all created feelings of uncertainty, perhaps mistrust, towards the tech giants. The likes of which are responding to with process and build updates to improve security, transparency, and hopefully, our trust.

And actually their response has been largely well-received, it feels like it's not necessarily for their gain, but for ours as consumers.

Instagram App Usage

Starting with the positive addition of the "You're all caught up" message once you've scrolled through everything new in your Feed, Instagram is paving the way to be a role model when it comes to smarter phone usage. 

Launched in August 2018, the new Instagram dashboard, "Your Activity", allows you to set daily time limits, as well as blocking push notifications and showing you how much time you're spending on the app.

The product launch was also rolled out on Facebook too, with similar options, but it's called "Your Time on Facebook". 

As part of a press release announcing the tools for Instagram (and Facebook, its parent company), Instagram's Ameet Ranadive and David Ginsberg, said:

It’s not just about the time people spend on Instagram and Facebook but how they spend that time. It’s our responsibility to talk openly about how time online impacts people — and we take that responsibility seriously. These new tools are an important first step, and we are committed to continuing our work to foster safe, kind and supportive communities for everyone.


Apple Screen Time

Launched in September 2018, Screen Time allows users to review just how they are using their phone, as showing in the Apple Support video below.

Screen Time is designed to show you how long you're spending ding different activities on your phone as well as a full app breakdown, plus setting time limits.



App Limits is a further product included in the Screen Time app which allows you to either restrict time sent on a particular app category (Social Networking), or a specific app (Facebook).

Downtime is another product included in the iOS 12 update, allowing you to restrict your phone usage, particularly before bedtime, allowing you to get a better night's rest.

Facebook Policy Updates

The social media giant released a sizeable privacy policy update (4,200+ words to be precise) in April 2018, ahead of the GDPR launch a month later. The policy was designed to clarify how the company uses our data for personalised recommendations tailored ads and research. It followed on the back of the revelation that millions of Facebook users' data had been leaked to Cambridge Analytica.

Again in April 2018, Facebook actively encouraged users to check their privacy settings with a new 'Privacy Consent Flow' which was presented to users upon logging in.


Explained in a press release as a "give people more control over their privacy and explain how we use data", the choices given focused on:

  • Ads based on data from partners
  • Information in their profile
  • Allowing face recognition technology

The update also included 'better' tools to access, delete and download information as outlined in the original press release.

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