New app helps reduce time spent on smartphones

Smartphones, useful tool or dangerous device?

How much time do you spend on your smartphone every day? Do you find you can't go places without it?

I decided to explore the reasons why people are so attached to their devices and what people can do to help put the phone down.

I hit the streets to see what Siouxlanders had to say about their cell-phone usage each day.

"I probably spend about two or three hours on my phone."

"I'd say two or three hours maybe four."

"Cumulatively, an hour or two."

"Oh boy, I don't know I feel like that's really hard to estimate. I would say that face-time on my phone would probably be one to two hours."

For years, phones have become an increasingly large part of our lives.

"With phones we already have so much of our life already placed in there."

From emails, to texting, to social media to GPS systems and searching the web, there's not much a phone can't do.

But why is it that we seem to devote so much time to our cellphones?

"We have the ability to connect so much with other people as well as other areas of our lives and so I think that's one of the big reasons why the phone seems to play such an important role," Andrew Gerodias, a Therapist for Jackson Recovery Centers told me.

It's not just an instrument to communicate through email or call, but the phone allows people to see other people's lives in a way they wouldn't otherwise.

"All you're seeing is the personal highlights. It's the highlight reel of people's lives typically within the texts messages you receive, the social media you see," Gerodias said.

Gerodias warns that some people may unconsciously compare themselves to others and see what they don't have, rather than what they do.

He says social media and phones can have a natural effect on individuals physical and mental health.

Often times, this constant attention to our phones leaves some feeling anxious.

"The anxiety comes from well if I'm not connected I'm not going to hear about it I'm not going to find out what's going on. I'll be behind the curve," he continued.

The fear of being left out and constant need to be on a phone is what spurred the creation of apps like Zenscreen.

An app that monitors what you do on your phone throughout the day and intervenes to help you take a break.

"So when we detect a pattern of repeated usage, we automatically give users a one hour break from just social media. All of their productivity apps and Google maps and search keeps working just social apps stop working," said founder and CEO of Zenlabs, Nitin Bhandari, the makers of Zenscreen.

The point of the app is to encourage using your phone in moderation to help with that feeling of anxiety and to stay focused on the task at hand.

"So you're working and you think 'Oh let me just check what's going on Facebook'. A lot of research shows it takes about 23 minutes to get back to the zone of productivity," Bhandari said.

Zenscreen Labs have found an equal amount of people use the app for mental wellness as well as personal productivity.

Some people have enough self control to put down the phone and realize when it's time to take a break but not everyone.

"I think there's very less hope that people can have enough self control and there's very little shame in using technology to sort of better your health and wellness," Bhandari told me.

Zenscreen is available for both iPhones and Androids, adults and children.

If you'd like to purchase the app, you can start with the 30 day free trial, and afterwards get it for for $4.99 per month in the App store.

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