So I normally blog about how to use data to drive better web design, digital marketing, software and business success, but I came across something recently that has inspired me to write more often about how to use data in real life. So here goes.
I’m not a fan of people’s opinions on things. Sorry, but I’m not. I’m also (and I realize that there’s some irony in this statement), not a huge fan of when people regurgitate to me what they’ve read articles about. I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m just honestly a lot more interested – and genuinely interested – in what people have actually experienced, vs. what they’ve read about.
One of the topics in recent years, months, weeks and now almost daily that gets brought to my attention by people I talk to regularly (sometimes in personal settings and often because of my profession), is the issue of “Screen Time” (aka, how often a person uses a phone or tablet for personal leisure or productivity). And it’s easy to get super judgy about ourselves and others when it comes to how much “Screen Time” we’re giving our children.
Generally, it’s in the negative context of “too much screen time is bad,” or “we’re all on screens way too much,” etc.
A few things you should know about me before you continue reading:
1. I’m a parent of two elementary school kids, so the issue of how much they “stare at a screen” is valid.
2. I was born in 1981, and I don’t identify as a Millennial, but I also don’t always identify as an “Xennial” either.
3. I’ve had people talk to me about this “Screen Time” issue that range in age from 25 – 75 consistently, and I often find myself somewhere in the middle, while most people are “against too much screen time” yet those with small children are quick to throw an iPad in front of their kids’ face.
No judgement here people. I’ve done the same many times, and I never know what else is going on in people’s lives. My assumption is that when I’m out and I see a kid staring at a screen in a restaurant while their parents talk is (a. those parents freaking need that time together; b. they just got done doing some hard parenting; and c. if that kid wasn’t staring at an iPad, he’d be staring at the TV in the corner of the restaurant, not necessarily the utopian (he’d be using his imagination and developing amazing areas of his brain so he’d be a better person) POV that some folks have.
Now, I obviously build mobile apps, websites and digital strategies for a living, so I’m a bit biased. However, I do preach “data over opinions,” and use data regularly to navigate tricky business situations where feelings often get hurt and productivity suffers, so I’m approaching this topic of “Screen Time” in a similar fashion.
Because if I didn’t, it would be a pointless, never-ending debate about whether little Suzy or little Johnny would be reading or coloring instead of watching YouTube and we’d all just end up mad at each other and talking shit behind each other’s backs while not really changing our behavior anyway.
I realize that this is a personal issue for folks, and I’m not going to win any arguments here, however, hear me out.
So, here goes.
Instead of focusing on hyperbole like “the world sucks because people are walking around staring at their phones instead of enjoying what’s around them,” let’s use the tools that technology gives us within our own lives, and focus there, only.
For example, there is a tool that Apple launched in recent updates of iOS, that is meant to be productive in addressing this societal issue of “Screen Time.”
I encourage you to, instead of making blanket statements about “Screen Time” and the studies you read about it, focus on using the data now available to you on your own mobile devices to monitor you and your own family’s use of screen time.
Read it weekly, and the same way we use data to improve websites, use this data to improve your own life and the lives of your family and children.
Let’s stop judging ourselves. Instead, let’s see how we’re really spending our time and make changes for what we all personally believe will better us as individuals.
For example, if this existed years ago, I would have had a ridiculous amount of data in my face every week telling me to stop throwing my money away on Fan Duel and Draft Kings, and go harder into things like Rosetta Stone and Duo Lingo.
Even further, if my mom or dad had a tool that told me how much freaking Tetris, RBI Baseball or Double Dribble I was playing when I was 8, vs. how much time I was spending reading books, writing out my thoughts and creating artwork, I may have been able to learn to play different instruments, speak different languages and forge stronger friendships as a result.
All I’m saying is, instead of demonizing “Screen Time,” let’s use this new tool to make data driven decisions on how to make our lives better.
Stop reading the headlines, judging yourself and others and being negative – thanks to the data, you are now empowered to do something about it in your own life – which is all you can control anyway.
As you can see in my weekly Screen Time report from iOS 12 above, this is how I use my time, from how often I’m on my mobile device, to how often I pick it up and look at it, to what I’m using it for.
Let’s be honest, this tool didn’t exist when we were growing up, but it does now. Let’s do ourselves a huge favor and use it to make life better for generations to come, let’s not demonize it or be negative.