Use Grayscale and Other Built-in Phone Tools to Reduce Screen Time – The Washington Post | Hot Mobile Press


I’ve lost a lot of Saturdays to long YouTube binges. I wish I was joking.

It’s usually the charming guys at Sorted Food who offer cooking tips. In other cases, this loss of time is caused by amazingly long game reviews or HD video footage that was somehow squeezed onto tapes in the early ’90s.

But if it’s not YouTube, then it’s drama unfolding on Reddit or a TikTok For You page that continues to serve up the hits. And no matter which app is responsible for my attention, the result is usually the same: I return to the real world a few hours later and wonder where all that precious time went.

I’m sure I’m not alone here either — a 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that around 30 percent of adults in the United States said they were online “almost constantly.” Enough, I recently decided.

Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems have tools to help curb our screen time, though they can feel a little half-baked at times. Still, they helped me get rid of my phone and explore my new home a bit. Here’s what helped me tear myself away from a whole world of content once the weekend was over.

In the wake of a pandemic for everyone, parents are struggling to reinstate screen time rules

This has become a pretty well-understood trick by now: forcing your smartphone screen to only show things in shades of gray is meant to dull the visual appeal that keeps you looking for more. And so far it’s worked fine for me: streaming shows don’t look great in black and white, and I can’t reconsider Wordle’s guesses over the weekend because I can’t tell a yellow square from a green one.

The settings for switching from colorful to colorless are a bit fiddly, but don’t worry – we can set up shortcuts to make it faster.

  • Open the Settings app, then tap Accessibility.
  • Under the Vision heading, tap Display & Text Size
  • Find the Color Filters option, tap the switch to turn it on, and select Grayscale

Now all the color should be gone from your iPhone’s screen. To make it easier to toggle back and forth, find the Accessibility Shortcut option and select Color Filters – after that, a triple click on the power button should do the trick.

  • Open the Settings app, then tap Accessibility.
  • Under the Display heading, tap Text and display
  • Tap Color Correction and choose Grayscale

To enable an on-screen shortcut button, find the Color Correction shortcut option and toggle it on. You should see a tiny, colored button that you can move around your screen as needed.

Aside from making my phone less visually appealing, I also wanted to limit — and sometimes temporarily disable — certain apps that I know not to blow Saturday and Sunday.

There are a few ways to accomplish this on an iPhone, but some of them require you to manually change some settings every time you want to disconnect from the world. This feels a bit too finicky; Instead, we’re going to be tweaking iOS’s screen time and downtime features to do most of that work instead.

First, we need to decide which apps we want (or need) to keep using.

  • Open the Settings app, tap Screen Time, and turn it on if you haven’t already
  • Once Screen Time is enabled, tap on the Always Allowed option.
  • Find the apps you want to make sure you can still access and tap the green button next to their names to add them to the allowed apps list.

Now you can turn downtime on and off manually. When it’s running, you’ll be warned that you’ve reached your time limit if you try to open an app that isn’t on the allowed list. However, if like me you’re thinking of using this mostly on the weekends, we can schedule the downtime to run at specific times.

  • From the Screen Time menu, tap the Schedule switch to turn it on
  • Tap Customize Days and set the schedule that works for you

On the whole, Screen Time isn’t a perfect system for blocking your impulses. For example, bypassing an app’s time limit requires just a few taps. Still, I’ve found that asking if I’m sure I want to open a particular app gives me just enough time to consider whether I really wanted to or if I was acting on a time-wasting impulse.

If you have an Android phone that was made in the last four years, it likely has a number of “digital wellbeing” tools built into it. Luckily, in some ways, it’s easier to set up and plan for app limits.

  • Open the Settings app and tap Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls
  • Tap Focus mode
  • Tap the checkboxes next to each app you want to restrict access to.
  • To schedule when you want Focus mode to run, tap Set schedule at the top of the screen and choose times that work for you

Once Focus Mode kicks in, you’re essentially locked out of the app entirely – unless you hit the button, which gives you another five minutes. Again, it’s not a perfect solution, but it was helpful in weaning myself from screens when the work week comes to an end.

Note: Some Android phones, like certain Samsung Galaxy devices, give you the option to set up multiple focus modes. If, like me, you try and enjoy this feature on weekends, it might be worth exploring during the week.

Have a better way to make your phone less distracting? Inform the helpdesk.

What about distraction-free phones?

Over the years, some companies have even tried to solve the problem by building stupid phones.

A Swiss hardware boutique company called Punkt makes stylish phones that are fine for calling, texting, and using mobile hotspots, but not much more. Then there’s the Light Phone II, a credit card-sized phone with an e-ink screen that can still play your podcasts and give you directions.

The idea of ​​a phone that strips away everything but the essentials is appealing, at least to a former professional phone nerd like me. But even I couldn’t bring myself to buy one of these things, mainly for one reason: they’re a bit small to limited.

None of these distraction-free devices allow you to install additional apps that you may already be relying on, which can make them non-starters as people’s only phones. It doesn’t help that these devices aren’t exactly cheap either: the Light Phone II retails for $299, while the latest Punkt model starts at $379.

If you’ve got the cash to spare then sure – maybe one of these would make a great weekend companion. (Some people really enjoy using these minimalist phones as daily drivers, although many wouldn’t be able to wield them.) But for me, the best play here is using your phone’s built-in tools to manage distractions on the right side reduce times and unleashes its full functionality when it is needed.

Or you could do what some of my colleagues have suggested: just leave your phone in a drawer or another room so you don’t get stuck to it. You’re a better person than me if you pull this off.

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