Here's What the iPhone Screen Time Feature Taught Me About My Phone Habits

A few weeks ago, Apple released their newest iPhone update—iOS 12.

In addition to cool changes like Group Facetime and Memoji, the new update also came with a "Screen Time"  feature located in the iPhone settings.

Screen Time basically tracks the way you use your phone and lets you in on all the data so you can make informed choices about your digital participation. It's a little creepy, a little cool and a little scary all at the same time.

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser: Sierra at the table holding her phone

(Sierra Burgess Is a Loser via Netflix)

As someone who tries to maintain a healthy relationship with my phone, I was pretty intimidated by Screen Time. I try to stay away from checking my phone incessantly, especially at crucial moments like when I'm hanging out with friends or watching my favorite shows, but I also know that I still spend a lot of time staring at my little screen. Instead of letting me maintain my "ignorance is bliss" mindset, Screen Time was definitely going to burst my imagined "healthy phone use" bubble.

Instead of running away from it, however, I decided to lean into the Screen Time feature and figure out the truth of how, when and how often I use my phone.

Keep scrolling to see what the iPhone Screen Time feature taught me about my phone habits.

In order to get the best read on my phone habits, I tried to follow my normal behavior in the week leading up to writing this. "Normal behavior," meaning I just used when my phone when I needed or wanted to, and didn't think too much about how it would affect my Screen Time. Since I often have multiple things running through my mind at once, I actually completely forgot about the Screen Time feature for the most part, creating what I think was a pretty accurate depiction of my phone habits.

My most used app by far was Instagram. While I wasn't necessarily surprised by that, I was a little disheartened to see that I had spent nearly 7 hours on the social networking app in a week. 7 hours! That's over an hour a day just scrolling through my feed and seeing what people are doing. While I'm fully aware that it was accurate, it felt like a lot of time to waste on an app where I'm not even marginally close to 3/4 of the people I'm following.

Following Instagram in time usage was Google Maps, with 2 hours and 10 minutes spent on the app in a week. I am terrible at directions, so if I'm not going from work to home or vice versa, I definitely need some digital guidance. On top of that, I check Google Maps a lot to see what the traffic is like (spoiler alert: I live in Los Angeles, it's always bad) and to determine if there might be a better route to my destination. I see Google Maps as crucial to just living my life, so I wasn't really upset by how often I used it.

Zoey looking at her phone with a concerned expression on an episode of Freeform's Grown-ish

(Grown-ish via Freeform)

Following Google Maps was iMessages, at 1 hour and 46m for the week. I'm not a big texter and I really only venture into my messages when I'm trying to plan a hangout with my friends or when I need to give or get advice from some of my close pals, so almost two hours for the week felt about like what I was expecting. Screen Time also showed me that I had gotten 221 messages in the past week. I'm not sure if that's a lot in comparison to other people, but it was way more than I was expecting. Shoutout to my friends for still trying to contact me even though I never respond.

After those heavy hitters, I spent about an hour each on Safari, Hinge, Spotify, Bumble and Notes. I track all my spending almost obsessively so I was shocked that Notes wasn't higher, but everything else felt pretty logical. I was even a little encouraged that the dating apps were that low because I feel like I waste a lot of time scrolling through those. To be fair, I had a hard week romantically and I wasn't really feeling the male population in general, so something tells me a different time period might have pushed those numbers a little higher.

I will say that the Screen Time feature was absolutely wrong in one category: podcasts. I listen to podcasts all day everyday, and yet Screen Time had only clocked 28 min for the entire week. Just yesterday I listened to five 45-minute episodes, so that's just wildly inaccurate. The only potential reason for this that I could come up with is that the feature only clocks the time you're actually scrolling through the app and not the time that I'm just listening to my shows through my headphones. That would make sense, as all my fave Podcasts are usually on the home screen when I open the app, allowing me to just click on the newest episode and close back out, which would make 28 min totally logical.

Joey King's character in The Kissing Booth lounging by the pool while on her phone

(The Kissing Booth via Netflix)

The feature also told me that I pick up my phone around 31 times per day. However, I must have had a tough Thursday because I picked up my phone 155 times, almost five times my daily average. Needless to say that felt a little obsessive, especially considering I didn't do anything that out of the ordinary.

Overall, I spent 12 hours and 45 minutes on my phone over the course of 6 days. That averages out to about 2 hours and 7 minutes per day. Although different studies have come up with slightly different answers, it's generally agreed upon that the average American spends about four hours on their phone per day. Not to pat myself on the back, but I was a little proud that I was half that number. Maybe my healthy phone habits weren't totally in my head.

However, I was still bothered by the fact that over half my phone time had been spent on Instagram. I don't even like Instagram that much! I think it's just my go-to app whenever I'm the tiniest bit bored, leading me to waste a lot of my life scrolling through pictures and stories that I don't even care about. I almost wish that I had used my phone in general more and wasted less time mindlessly scrolling through the app.

Woman with painted nails and a watch holding a phone

(via Unsplash)

Despite my Instagram frustrations, I appreciated the Screen Time feature more than I thought I would. It confirmed that I'm not too obsessed with my phone, but it also showed me that I'm much too reliant on Instagram. Moving forward, my goal is to make a real effort to reduce my time spent on Instagram specifically, especially because it doesn't bring me a real sense of joy or satisfaction.

Obviously we can't rid ourselves of our mobile devices all together—that's just not logical anymore. But I do think it's a great idea to be able to monitor your phone use and come up a clear picture of how you use your time. We consciously approach so many other things in our life—exercise, food, friendships, relationships—why not transfer that deliberate behavior to our digital habits?


Phones might be a little overwhelming, but we can still find ways to enjoy them. Click HERE for 11 memes you'll definitely relate to if you've ever used a cell phone.