Tech companies provide tools to monitor screen time

June 28, 2018
3 min read

In 2006, Facebook brought the focus away from personal profiles with the launch of the newsfeed, allowing users to have everything they need to know about their friends and family right at their fingertips. At first, users were shocked because they felt it was unnecessary. However, it didn’t take long for users across generations to get addicted – not just to Facebook scrolling, but across digital platforms and smartphones. Technology has continued to drive consumers to keep scrolling, but it’s reaching a breaking point where tech companies are feeling the pressure to invest in a new priority of digital wellbeing.

The term “digital wellbeing” focuses on tech companies providing users with the tools they need to set proper limits or simply be mindful of where they spend their time. There is no doubt time spent on social media is increasing; consumers are spending more time on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook than they were a year ago, according to Mintel research on social media trends. The impetus to take a digital detox has been on the user, as seen with the Mintel Trend, “Switch Off.” Rather than risk consumers logging off for good, all of the big players in tech are creating various tools to put control in the hands of the user.

More than two in five kids/teens aged 13-17 spend the most time scrolling social media.

The new limits are comparable to calorie labeling for digital platforms; if a user still wants to scroll without interruption they can, but the ability to set limits will be much more defined. Google and Apple have both launched initiatives that focus on wellbeing, ranging from setting time frames where notifications won’t come through on a smartphone to reminders to take a break and log off on YouTube (owned by Google). All of the notifications require a manual setup from the user in settings, but once set, the break reminders or notification-free time frames will be automatic. Instagram is taking a slightly different approach by providing its users with an outline of their time on the platform in an effort to hinder mindless, unnecessary scrolling. The question is if the updates will do enough to break a scrolling cycle that is impacting everything from sleep patterns to mental health. Parents are especially concerned about how early children are being exposed to screens. More than two in five kids/teens aged 13-17 spend the most time scrolling social media, according to Mintel research on activities of kids and teens.

What we think

Technology is only going to continue to be a more dominant part of everyday life and the data it leaves behind creates more fears and unknowns. However, the rise of social media and technology has emerged a resurgence toward self-care; in the past ten years there has been a 32% increase in online mentions of wellness according to Mintel research on managing health. A new focus toward digital wellbeing is aiming to bridge two worlds that have a cause and effect relationship. While it’s a positive start, there is no doubt it will be a work in progress for many years to come.

Diana Kelter
Diana Kelter

Diana is an Associate Director of Consumer Trends, focusing on North America. Diana joined Mintel as a foodservice analyst before moving to the Trends team. Her role on Trends is a combination of analyzing data and pairing it with global brand monitoring, to determine where macro trends take shape.

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