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I Used Apple’s New Controls to Limit a Teenager’s iPhone Time (and It Worked!)

6 min read

Even as people have embraced the smartphone as one of the most powerful tech products, they are keeping a wary eye on the addictiveness of turning on the device to check for social media updates, read websites and play games. Some studies have tied extended screen time to distraction in classrooms, sleep deprivation and depression.

I, for one, probably have a problem with compulsively picking up my phone. So when Apple announced new software to help people restrict the amount of time they spend on iPhones, I knew I had to test it on myself. I also wanted to try it on a “screenager,” a teenager who is addicted to screens — exactly the kind of person generating so much concern.

Just one problem: I don’t have a child, so I needed to borrow one. Fortunately, my editor gleefully volunteered her 14-year-old, Sophie, to be a test subject. So last month, I lent Sophie an iPhone X loaded with an unfinished version of iOS 12, Apple’s new operating system, that included the Screen Time feature, which is set for release this fall. We set up the account so that I was a parent, with the ability to set limits, and she was my child.

First, a primer on how Screen Time works. The feature, which lives inside the iPhone’s settings, shows a dashboard of data about your iPhone use. You can look at your stats for the day or week, including the amount of time you spent on specific apps and on the phone over all. Inside the dashboard, you can create time limits for specific apps or categories of apps, like social networking or games. When you run out of time with an app, it locks you out.

Over the last three weeks, I studied Sophie’s phone use patterns along with mine. After determining the apps that we spent extraordinary amounts of time on — Sophie spent hours each day chatting with friends on Snapchat, and I wasted too much of my life reading Twitter — I placed a few time limits on each of us.

Here’s how that turned out. During Week 2, when she was trying to withdraw from her phone, strange things started happening to Sophie. After the screenager first used up all her time on Snapchat on a Tuesday, she told her mother that she felt “triggered” (which I would learn is slang for feeling annoyed or incensed). She later told me that she had realized she would open her phone and just stare blankly at the app icons to avoid using up her limit on Snapchat.

“It was just a pattern for me — to open my phone and I would have nowhere to go,” she said. “I was just looking at a screen. It was kind of weird, so I’m trying not to do that.”

But in the end, the results were satisfying. Sophie’s average daily phone use plummeted by about half, from over six hours during Week 1 to about three hours and four minutes during Week 3. My average phone use decreased 15 minutes a day, to about three and a half hours. I still think we spend too much time on our phones, but Sophie’s progress made this faux parent proud (and ashamed of himself).

These early results should be welcome news to people who are growing increasingly concerned about long-term addiction to smartphones. There have been other ways to limit use, including apps like Moment, which have many of the same features as Screen Time. But none of them have been embedded into a phone like Apple’s new software.

Here’s a weekly diary on how Screen Time altered our phone use.

Week 1

Sophie and I had a rough start with the experiment because of technical difficulties. Apple’s iOS 12 is still in beta, meaning an unfinished version of the software system is being tested by app developers and early adopters — and we ran into major bugs.

For most of the first week, a bug prevented me from seeing Sophie’s Screen Time statistics. But at the end of the week, after Apple released a software fix, her weekly stats appeared. They revealed that she had used her phone for six hours and seven minutes a day on average over the week. I could also see that Sophie was sometimes sneaking glances at her iPhone past midnight, when she was supposed to be asleep.

After I shared the data with my editor, she bombarded Sophie with a flurry of disapproving text messages and fiery emoji.

Meanwhile, my stats showed that I had used my phone for three hours and 46 minutes a day on average over the week. The majority of my time was spent using the Twitter app Tweetbot, and a significant amount was wasted playing Zynga Poker.

With Screen Time now working properly, I placed limits for both Sophie and myself. For her, I set a 30-minute limit on gaming and a 60-minute limit on social networking. To help her sleep, I also turned on Downtime, a setting that disables most parts of the phone for a set time, from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

I gave myself the same one-hour limit for social networking apps. But instead of setting a limit for games, I opted to nip my Zynga Poker addiction in the bud by deleting the game and kissing my dreams of being a fake-money billionaire goodbye.

Week 2

Even though Sophie was initially incensed about being locked out of Snapchat after an hour, she eventually came around to enjoying the limit.

In fact, she asked for more limits. She said she was wasting too much time reading articles on the Safari browser, so she asked for a 90-minute limit there. She also requested that I keep all the limits on until she finished the monthlong summer camp she was just beginning.

I happily obliged. “I raised her so well,” I told my editor.

As for me, I realized that when I ran into my limit on Twitter, I would find other ways to stay glued to my phone. I caught myself repeatedly checking my bank account and loading the same news sites over and over.

Sophie’s progress was remarkable. Mine not so much. By the end of that week, she managed to cut her average phone use to four hours and 44 minutes a day, down 23 percent from the previous week. (I’m sure the trauma from her mother’s outburst of emoji had something to do with it.)

My average screen use barely decreased — to about three and a half hours a day.

Week 3

At the beginning of the third week, phone use continued to steeply decline for Sophie.

On some days that week, Sophie’s phone use was lower than mine. On Tuesday afternoon, her screen time dipped to about two and a half hours, whereas mine had already exceeded three hours.

At this point, I felt pathetic. (If I were young, I might have said I felt “triggered.”) I asked myself: What kind of parent am I if I’m more addicted than my teenage daughter to a smartphone? Who would listen to this degenerate?

When I shared this revelation with Sophie, she chuckled and replied: “You use your phone more than me?”

So for the rest of the week, I kept pushing myself to beat her. I logged out of Twitter after each time I used it in the web browser. I stopped checking my bank account, assuring myself that no more money would magically appear.

It felt similar to competing with friends on Fitbit to see who could accumulate the most steps — the only difference here was that I was trying to win by doing less.

On Friday, my phone use was one hour and 51 minutes. Sophie’s was three hours and 17 minutes. With a fist pump I exclaimed, “What now, Sophie?”

Yet in the end, my average daily use for the week was three hours and 36 minutes. That’s largely because on the Fourth of July and throughout the weekend I spent a total of eight hours driving — with Google Maps running on my phone screen. That doesn’t seem as if it should count against my Screen Time since my eyes were mostly on the road.

But alas, with Sophie averaging just over three hours a day, I lost fair and square.

I checked in with Sophie to ask how she felt after completing the experiment. She said that other than being a bit more focused on homework for her camp and having less interrupted sleep, she felt about the same.

“It’s annoying having my phone but not being able to use it,” she said. “I think it increases my good habits, though.”

She also made one more request: “Could you add another limit for Netflix?”

Brian X. Chen, our lead consumer technology reporter, writes Tech Fix, a column about solving tech-related problems like sluggish Wi-Fi, poor smartphone battery life and the complexity of taking your smartphone abroad. What confuses you or makes you angry about your tech? Send your suggestions for future Tech Fix columns to [email protected].

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Data breach exposes trade secrets of carmakers GM, Ford, Tesla, Toyota – TechCrunch

1 min read

Data breach exposes trade secrets of carmakers GM, Ford, Tesla, Toyota – TechCrunch

Security researcher UpGuard Cyber Risk disclosed Friday that sensitive documents from more than 100 manufacturing companies, including GM, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Tesla, Toyota, ThyssenKrupp, and VW were exposed on a publicly accessible server belonging to Level One Robotics.

The exposure via Level One Robotics, which provides industrial automation services, came through rsync, a common file transfer protocol that’s used to backup large data sets, according to UpGuard Cyber Risk. The data breach was first reported by the New York Times.

According to the security researchers, restrictions weren’t placed on the rsync server. This means that any rsync client that connected to the rsync port had access to download this data. UpGuard Cyber Risk published its account of how it discovered the data breach to show how a company within a supply chain can affect large companies with seemingly tight security protocols.

This means if someone knew where to look they could access trade secrets closely protected by automakers. It’s unclear if any nefarious actors actually got their hands on the data. At least one source at an affected automaker told TechCrunch it doesn’t not appear that sensitive or proprietary data was exposed.

UpGuard’s big takeaway in all of this: rsync instances should be restricted by IP address. The researchers also suggest that user access to rsync be set up so that clients have to authenticate before receiving the dataset. Without these measures, rsync is publicly accessible, the researchers said.

The breach exposed 157 gigabytes of data—a treasure trove of 10 years of assembly line schematics, factory floor plans and layouts, robotic configurations and documentation, ID badge request forms, VPN access request forms. The breach even included sensitive non-disclose agreements, including one from Tesla.

Personal details of some Level One employees, including scans of driver’s licenses and passports, and Level One business data, including invoices, contracts, and bank account details.

The security team discovered the breach July 1. The company successfully reached Level One by July 9 and the exposure was closed by the following day.

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Pitch your startup to snag €3 million in TV advertising

2 min read

Presented by SevenVentures

Taking your product to market is the easy part. Building a leading brand separates the weak from the strong.

SevenVentures, a TV media investor and an investment arm of Europe’s largest broadcaster, ProSiebenSat.1 Group, is devoted to creating the next generation of market leaders by helping growth companies scale quickly using TV advertising.

And now the company is announcing that applications are open for their eighth annual SevenVentures Pitch Day (7VPD). They’re looking for the most innovative B2C startups, ready to establish themselves and grow in Germany. They’ll be pitching for the chance to win €3 million in TV advertising in this fast-growing market.

The 7VPD prize

7VPD will take place at the DMEXCO conference in Cologne, Germany on September 12, 2018, where four finalists who want to grow their brands in Germany will present their concepts to a jury of industry experts and entrepreneurs. One lucky winning startup will scoop €3 million in German TV advertising, €200k in online advertising, €30k for the creation of their own TV spot, and a mentoring program from Proctor and Gamble. According to Forbes Magazine, it’s one of the most valuable venture capital prizes in the world.

The hot German market

Germany is a hot and growing market for international companies. With more than 40 million financially solvent households and a gross domestic product (GDP) worth more than €3.7 billion, Germany is the leading EU economy, accounting for over a fifth (21.1 percent) of EU GDP.

From a launchpad in Germany, companies can also easily expand into Austria, Switzerland, and beyond. A local partner like SevenVentures can help international companies navigate these new waters.

Who can apply?

The competition is aimed at the most innovative and creative companies in the B2C space who have a unique physical or digital product, want to scale quickly, and are at the right stage of development to benefit from TV advertising power. Both German companies and international companies that are not yet active in the German market are eligible to participate.

Want to leave the competition behind? Then apply for 7VPD by August 22nd, 2018 for a chance to win over €3 million in advertising budget. 

2018 7VPD jury

The 7VPD offers a jury of industry experts:

  • Michael Stich is an entrepreneur, founder, and a former professional tennis player who counts the Wimbledon Men’s Single and Doubles titles and Olympic Men’s Doubles among his many sporting achievements.
  • Astrid Teckentrup has been vice president of sales at Proctor & Gamble DACH, one of the largest markets for P&G worldwide, since 2015. On a global level, she is responsible for a major global customer.
  • Florian Pauthner & Eun-Kyung Park will team up for the third jury spot: Eun-Kyung is managing director of SevenVentures, and since 2009 has held many executive positions at the ProSiebenSat.1 Group, including for ProSiebenSat.1 Digital (Video), TV channel six, and managing director of SevenOne Adfactory. Florian is managing director of SevenVentures and previously enjoyed a longstanding career as an investment expert as former SevenVentures’ CFO, and in M&A for one of the biggest financial institutions in Northern Europe and at a leading management consultancy.

Presenter Steven Gätjen will accompany the participants, jury, and audience through the hour-long program.

Apply for 7VPD by August 22nd, 2018 for the chance to win over €3 million in advertising spend.

DMEXCO: for key players in digital, marketing, and innovation: Bringing together 40,000 visitors, 1,100 exhibitors, and 500 speakers from around the world for a one-of-a-kind event each year in Cologne, DMEXCO (Digital Marketing and Expo Conference) has set the standard as the place for business minds to learn and inspire, build connections, and for ideas to become actions.

Sponsored posts are content produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. Content produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].

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Open sourcing quantum: Get ready to help build a new future

0 min read

Jay Gambetta is a fellow at IBM, where he has contributed to the work on quantum validation techniques, quantum codes, improved gates and coherence, near-term applications of quantum computing, the IBM Quantum Experience, and the Qiskit open source framework and leads IBM’s quantum theory, software, and applications group. Previously, he worked at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Canada and was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. A quantum information scientist researching in the field of quantum information and computation, Jay h…


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