Tech companies drive “digital wellness” to counteract smartphone addiction

Silicon Valley is uniting in the fight against smartphone dependence with a range of apps and initiatives that aim to restore digital balance.

Google’s latest version of Android, the Android P, will include an app called "dashboard", which will help users track their app usage and recommend ways to lessen this.

Other new functions, as part of Google’s digital wellbeing initiative, will include an app timer, a new “do not disturb” mode and a wind-down feature.

YouTube has also rolled out a brand new digital wellness feature to remind viewers to take time out from screen time. The “take a break” feature allows viewers to chose the amount of time they want to watch before being reminded to switch off and is available on the Android and iOS versions of YouTube.

App developers are also expecting Apple to focus on health and wellbeing at the company’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference next month. Meanwhile Instagram announced last week that it is developing a feature that will monitor screen time.

Earlier this year, a study of more than half a million American adolescents over five years, led by the psychology professor Jean M Twenge revealed that kids who used their smartphones for three hours or more a day were one-third more likely to feel hopeless or consider suicide. This rose to nearly half for kids that used such devices for five or more hours a day. Using social media daily was linked with a 13% higher incidence of depressive symptoms.

Many spas are launching digi-detox programmes aimed at kids and this year’s annual Global Wellness Day, in June, will focus on children’s wellness.