New Screen Time feature helps fight your Facebook addiction

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Screen Time
Facebook is taking a page out of Apple's iOS 12 playbook.
Photo: Facebook

Facebook has introduced new iOS 12-style Screen Time tools intended to help users manage their time on Facebook and Instagram. The new features give users an activity dashboard, daily reminders about usage, and a new way to limit notifications.

“We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organizations, academics, our own extensive research and feedback from our community,” the company notes in a press release.

To access the tools, users should visit the settings page on either app. On Instagram, they should then tap “Your Activity,” or “Your Time on Facebook” on the Facebook app. This brings up a dashboard showing the length of time spent using the app for the particular device you are using.

There is additionally the ability to set an alert that reminds you when you’ve reached the amount of time you opt to spend on Facebook on a particular day. There’s also a new “Mute Push Notifications” setting under Notification Settings. This lets you silence Facebook and Instagram for times when you need to focus on things that aren’t your friend’s cat pictures.

Can this restore Facebook’s reputation?

Facebook isn’t the first company to introduce similar features at a time when many people are worried about the effects of social media and, particularly, smartphone addiction on young people.

iOS 12, as noted, will introduce tools that allow parents to monitor their kids’ screen time and set time limits. Tim Cook has said the findings of Apple’s Screen Time feature surprised even him. “When I began to get the data, I found I was spending a lot more time than I should,” he told one interviewer.

Nonetheless, Facebook’s introduction of the new tools comes at a time when the social network is beset by negative press. Much of this stems from the “fake news” fallout of the 2016 presidential elections, and concerns about Facebook overstepping its bounds in terms of user privacy.

In the aftermath, multiple prominent tech figureheads suggested that users delete their Facebook apps. After reporting disappointing recent earnings, Facebook stock this month lost more value in one day than any other company in history: $120 billion.

Will this new feature help restore some of the good will toward the world’s biggest social network? We’ll have to wait and see. We definitely applaud the company for making this move, though.