Apple's giving people the tools to help them use their iPhones less. You read that right.

For over a decade, Apple's done everything in its power to keep your eyes, ears, and fingers glued to your cellphone. This makes their latest feature a little puzzling.

Tucked away in iOS 12, the mid-2018 iteration of Apple's mobile operating system, is a feature called Screen Time. This feature will monitor user activity about app usage, time spent on the device, and more. It will also allow people to set limits for themselves. Parental controls are nothing new when it comes to pieces of tech, but Screen Time is a little different in that it's not necessarily for children.

"With Screen Time, these new tools are empowering users who want help managing their device time and balancing the many things that are important to them," Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said during the product announcement. In effect, Apple is giving users the option to limit themselves and the time spent on their devices.


A look at what Apple's Screen Time feature will look like on iPhone. Image from Apple.

The need for Screen Time illustrates a growing consciousness around the issue of tech addiction.

It may sound silly, but people are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices. Figures vary, but it's estimated that the average U.S. adult spends somewhere around four hours on their phones and tablets each day, a number that's climbed higher in recent years. Whether it's actually an "addiction" is up for debate (it's not currently listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but it and similar technology-related issues are being studied.

Whether or not tech can actually be addictive, there's a lot of data to suggest that it's just simply not great for our health in large doses.

If tech addiction doesn't exist, it's not for a lack of trying.

In a November interview with Axios, Sean Parker, an early investor in Facebook and its first president, explained the driving question behind the company's development: "How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?"

"That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments. It's a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

To be fair, getting people to use a product as much as possible isn't exactly a remarkable goal for any company. Facebook just succeeded in ways other businesses haven't.

Sean Parker addresses a conference in 2017. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen.

Some in the tech industry are finally asking questions and drawing conclusions about the long-term effects of dependency on technology.

Former Facebook vice president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya told an audience at Stanford University that the "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created" pose a threat to society as a whole. "No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem — this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem."

During its 2018 I/O conference, Google acknowledged that technology as we currently know it comes with some downsides. "Great technology should improve life, not distract from it," the company's Digital Wellbeing website proclaims. This new suite of tools, similar to Apple's Screen Time, comes with a simple goal: Ensure that "life, not the technology in it, stays front and center."

Without a doubt, tools like those in Google's Digital Wellbeing and Apple's Screen Time are a good thing. But they're probably not enough.

In his 2016 TED Talk on how "better tech could protect us from distraction," former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris laid out a plan to "restore choice" in the relationship we have with technology. The goal is to convince companies to pursue a metric of "time well spent" rather than simply time spent. Harris called on companies to judge their success on the company's "net positive contribution to human life," on designers to resist the urge to simply create unproductive time-sucks, and on consumers to "demand technology that works this way."

A healthier relationship with technology requires companies to rethink their businesses as a whole. Tools like Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time on their own don't address the underlying issue.

If you feel like you're having a tough time reducing your time on your mobile devices and you want to cut back, there are simple things you can do right now.

As co-founder and executive director at the Center for Humane Technology, Harris advocates for better design. The organization's website is full of great resources, but none better and more instantly applicable than its list of ways to "live more intentionally with your devices." Here are five suggestions for ways you can cut back on mobile device dependence:

1. Manage your notifications.

CHT recommends turning off all notifications for everything except messaging apps, text, and email.

2. Change your display to black, white, and gray.

Did you know that you can make your iPhone display grayscale? CHT outlines how to do that, removing some of the bright colors that demand our attention.

3. Sleep with your phone in a different room.

Not only do phones have a nasty habit of keeping us up late when we're trying to sleep, but waking up next to one reinforces a habit that starts the day diving headfirst into technology.

4. Reorganize your home screen.

Think about what apps you spend a lot of time mindlessly browsing. Now move them to the second screen. CHT suggests using the home screen for "apps you use for quick in-and-out tasks."

5. Use available tools and apps to help you.

Tools like Digital Wellbeing, Screen Time, and third-party apps are designed to reduce distraction. Did you know that there's an app you can download that temporarily locks you out of other apps? How about an extension that blocks out Facebook's newsfeed? There are loads of productivity apps that  make your phone usage a bit more deliberate without having to cut yourself off from technology entirely.

Apple CEO Tim Cook appears at Apple's 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference. Photo by Apple.

Technology can be wonderful, and social media can connect us in powerful new ways, but remember that too much of a good thing can have its downsides.

No one is saying that you shouldn't use the internet or your smartphone. Those things are simply a part of people's lives now. What you should do, if you want to, is set boundaries for yourself. If even the companies whose profits depend on getting people hooked on the use of their products are taking steps to help you dial things back, it's probably worth a shot.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.