How tech can help you with your tech addiction

Technology is helpful in so many ways, especially in education, but sometimes we need to step away from it and take a break. Although it may seem a bit counter-intuitive technology can offer the solution to help you take a break from technology. There are some handy apps that will help you ‘take time out’, put down your phone and embrace real-world interaction and reflection.

With the introduction of screen time on Apple’s iOS12 I was horrified at my daily usage stats - one day I had picked up my phone 89 times! It got me thinking - if I wasn’t checking my mobile so much, what more could I be achieving with my day? Being on our phone is an integral part of work-life for many of us, but 89 times seemed to be much more than friends I had spoken to, and I wanted to try and change this habit.

Social media icons on a iPhone

The negative effect of technology on mental health

There have been many news stories about how social media and smartphones can have a negative effect on mental health. We are all guilty of posting our ‘best lives’ on Instagram and sharing how brilliantly we’re doing at work on LinkedIn.

Having your phone nearby can even have an impact in social situations, as reported in the BBC story ‘Is social media bad for you?’. The article reported that “those with a phone in eyeshot were less positive when recalling their [social] interaction afterwards, had less meaningful conversations and reported feeling less close to their partner than the others, who had a notebook on top of the table instead.”

So, there could be a good case for making better use of our time without the ties to social media and our smartphone. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together our best apps for positive mobile phone use that can also help you improve your time management.

Apps for positive mobile phone use

Moment

Simply put, your smartphone steals your time. Moment's purpose is to help give you back that time. Through short, daily exercises provided through Moment Coach, it can help you to use your phone in a more healthy way so you can be present for the parts of life that matter most. 

Aloe Bud

Aloe has been designed for daily check-ins and reflection, it covers all the essentials; from staying hydrated to maintaining relationships with friends, colleagues or your student co-hort and allows you to reflect on human interaction. 

Forest

This app gamifies leaving your phone alone. It runs as the lockscreen on your device and presents you with a sapling that will grow all the time the phone is left alone but will die if you unlock your phone before the timer runs out (typically 25 mins). The app works on the principals of nudge; rather than stopping you from doing something, it encourages you not to with simple rewards. Each successful tree (as well as any unsuccessful dead trees) are added to your personal forest.

You collect virtual coins with each successful abstinence that allows you to, for example, buy different species of tree to grow. For an additional incentive, the app-makers are also planting real trees as the virtual coins are spent in the app. It’s free on Android but around £2 on iOS.

Clockwork Tomato

This is a very simple pomodoro timer the main screen of the app features a clock face timer with representations of the 25 minute pomodoro and five-minute break.When the timer is started you get a ticking sound, but this fades after a few seconds. The app also tracks your ‘productivity’ by showing the amount of Pomodoros you have completed in a calendar. There are additional features such as setting activities as well as task lists.

For an online alternative you can use Tomato Timer.

AbilityNet can help

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps people to use technology to achieve their goals. If you have questions about disability and technology you can call us for free on 0800 269 545 or email enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk.