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New Apple Software Helps Limit Smartphone Use

For Apple users worried about how much time they and their children spend posting photos and videos to their devices, help is on the way.

Apple has announced new controls that will allow parents to remotely limit the amount of time their offspring spend on iPhones and iPads, as well as hold up a mirror to their own online habits. The feature will be available in the next software update.

The move comes as the tech industry faces criticism that it has successfully made its smartphones and apps addictive with little thought for how people’s lives may be negatively affected by the distraction of constantly checking their devices.

Smartphone addiction

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about his own habits at an Apple developers conference this week. After trying out Apple’s new controls, he saw his usage in a new light.

“I thought I was fairly disciplined about this, and I was wrong,” he told CNN.

Earlier this year, major Apple shareholders wrote the company asking that it do more to help parents by providing tools to limit children’s screen time, while looking at how being online constantly affects customers’ mental health.

Apple appears to have listened to some of these concerns. It is introducing “Screen Time,” an app that will give users a weekly report about how much time they spend on their devices and on specific apps, as well as new ways to curb the habit.

Parents can give their children screen time allowances — a specific amount of time they can play a video game or check in with friends on apps such as Snapchat. Once they hit the limit, children will have to ask parents to increase the time allotment.

“We’re empowering people with the facts that will allow them to decide for themselves how they want to cut back,” said Cook.

Apple’s changes will be part of a software update typically released in September.

Apple isn’t the only company creating a digital baby sitter of sorts. Last month, Google announced it, too, was giving parents more tools to monitor their and their children’s usage. 

Customer privacy

In addition, Apple revealed new ways it would limit the sharing of customer information, perhaps in response to the firestorm directed at Facebook over how the social media giant mishandled customer data. It has long been part of Apple’s message that compared with fellow Silicon Valley companies, Apple cares the most about users’ privacy.

Apple customers might not notice some of the changes. They include limiting “fingerprinting,” which gives data collectors the ability to tell one Apple computer from another. Others will allow customers to actively decide whether to allow websites that track them on the Safari browser.

“We believe your private data should remain private,” said Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi.

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