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Need A Digital Detox? These 10+ Screen Time Limit Apps Will Help

Written by Erin Feher

Time and focused attention are especially precious to parents, and nothing seems to deplete them like the glowing little rectangles in our pockets. That’s why for many parents these days, spending less time staring at their phone tops their list of resolutions. According to recent studies, the average person spends an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day, with the top 20% of smartphone users spending upwards of four and a half hours. Half of that is on the top five social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube. For parents, this addiction isn’t just about wasting our precious time, but the little eyeballs that are watching us do it.

Ironically (but not surprisingly), some of the most effective medicine comes in the form of the sickness, thanks to the dozens of apps that have launched to help us unplug. These apps will help you cut back on your screen time, detox from social media, and spend more time doing what matters. Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite screen time limit apps, as well as a few analog tips for breaking your unhealthy phone habits and reconnecting with the real world.

We love Moment’s minimal aesthetic and focus on curbing social media use. In addition to tracking the time you’re spending on Instagram or Twitter and allowing you to set limits on your daily social media usage, the app sends you short, daily exercises from your “Moment Coach” to help you be more intentional with the time you do spend on your phone. Moment Family allows you to connect up to 6 devices to make your digital diet a family affair.
Where To Download: iTunes, Google Play

Freedom allows you to set up specific blocks, from individual websites and apps to the entire internet. You can turn blocks on as you need to or schedule chunks of time each day to go without. Since there is a Freedom app for both iOS and Mac, you can be held accountable on all your devices. Freedom also creates reports and stats so you can track your progress.
Where To Download: iTunes, Google Play

We like Space because it’s set up a little differently than the others, and has a more personal approach to behavior modification. When you install the app, you’re asked to complete a short questionnaire about your smartphone habits and then choose what type of user you are. Space uses that info to help you set goals and be more mindful of your screen time, and even loads brief “Moments of Zen” when you try to open an app you spend too much time on to get you to rethink your decision to click.
Where To Download: iTunes, Google Play

This app features two different modes: a “casual lock” that challenges you to stay off your phone for a certain amount of time with game-like enticements and a “full lock,” which pretty much shuts you out of your device by hiding your apps. In this mode, you still have access to basics like phone calls and text messaging, but your social media distractions will disappear until the timer runs out.
Where To Download: iTunes, Google Play

App Detox
App Detox lets you create your own rules to limit access to certain apps. As with the others, you can program a set schedule or jump into focus sessions where your app use is blocked. We love the option that requires you to take a walk in order to earn your screen time. This app also offers the “Forever” option, which sets limits on apps, well, forever, and cannot be deleted from your phone. We guess desperate times call for desperate measures.
Where To Download: Google Play

App Block
AppBlock is currently for Android users only, and it lets you temporarily block distracting applications on your phone, providing chunks of focused attention. The user sets precise times and dates, as well as which apps and notifications they want blocked, and once the pre-set time duration is over, the blocked apps can be used again. We love that you can set blocks according to the wifi connection or location, too (blocks will kick in once you walk in the door from work, or if you are at your local playground). If your self-control is weak, Strict Mode can help—it locks your AppBlock settings so you can’t remove or change them until the set time runs out.
Where To Download: Google Play

Off The Grid
Off The Grid is the equivalent of going cold turkey. It has just one feature: It completely blocks your phone for a length of time you determine. If you can’t fight the urge to use your phone after you’ve activated Off The Grid, it’s going to cost you, literally. The app charges your credit card $1 for each time you end your session early.
Where To Download: Google Play

AntiSocial is for the person who desperately wants to stop playing Words with Friends, but still wants to mercilessly compete with them. In addition to providing standard features like screen time limits and app blocking, it also compares your screen usage data to other people in your age and gender cohort, so you’ll know exactly who’s the best of the best at quitting their phone.
Where To Download: Google Play

If spending more time with your family or being more productive at work isn’t enough to motivate you, what about saving the elephants? Lilspace offers you real incentives for staying off your phone. Users “tag” their unplugged time into the lilspace app, and the perks pile up—such as lilspace swag, discounts from retailers, and donations to charitable causes. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Africa receives $1 for every hour of unplugged time lilspace users log.
Where To Download: iTunesGoogle Play

This is another cute concept app with real world consequences. When you want some time away from your phone, plant a “tree” in the Forest app. It grows to maturity if you successfully stay in the Forest app and off your other apps for a determined amount of time. The tree withers and dies if you close the app. As your digital forest grows, you earn coins which can be spent on planting real trees out in the real world.
Where To Download: iTunes, Google Play

Downtime and App Limit
These are both features already on your iPhone if you have iOS 12 or higher. App Limits lets you set specific time limits on app categories, like games or social media. When you’ve spent the designated time using the app category, iOS sends you an alert notifying you of the fact. Unlike the other tough-love apps, with this one there is no consequence to ignoring the alerts, but sometimes a nudge is all you need. With Downtime, you set a daily schedule for times that you don’t want to use your phone at all. Once it’s activated, you can’t do much besides make phone calls or use any apps you’ve exempted in the settings. It’s easy to override these restrictions, but can be a gentle push to cut your screen time.
Where To Download: iOS 12

Analog Tips for a Smartphone Detox
If downloading (and let’s be honest, using) more apps doesn’t sound like the most logical way to quit your app habit, here are a few tips for spending more time IRL that don’t require a visit to iTunes.

1. Charge your device outside your bedroom, and buy a stand-alone alarm clock.

2. Delete social media apps from your phone, and use the clunkier browser versions if you must log in.

3. Disable notifications, including those for email.

4. Have a single hard and fast rule for yourself and your family: No phones at the table during meals.

5. Set a lock screen image (like these from the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone) that asks you think twice before swiping in.

6. Leave your phone at home while you go for a walk or run. Stare out of a window during your commute instead of checking your email.

Have you tried to cut down on your own screen time?  Tell us about how you did it and why in the comments below.  

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