To steal a line from the TV show, Monk, technology is both a blessing and a curse. Technological advancements over the last few decades have improved the way people function in society dramatically. At the same time, people have become so codependent on technology that it disrupts their lives to the point of dysfunction. In an effort to strike a balance, YouTube launched new tools for families to track their tech habits. The hope is, by better understanding how they behave online, parents can engage with their families in more meaningful ways offline.
As of Monday, families will now have access to a personal time watched profile, a new account tool that records the amount of time parents and their children spend on the platform, according to Forbes. Once the feature is turned on, families will be able to see how many minutes they spent watching YouTube videos through three metrics: Today, Yesterday, and Past 7 Days.
The time watched profile also includes daily average state, so this way parents can evaluate their YouTube viewing habits overall, in addition to how they use the app in real-time. The metrics, though, do not include YouTube Music or YouTube TV use, Forbes reported.
The time watched profile also includes other neat tools that will help families make informed decisions about when they should disconnect and for how long. Under the profile, parents can choose to receive just one notification digest a day, as well as set reminders to take a break from YouTube after a certain amount of time spent watching videos, according to Google's YouTube blog. A pop up will remind you to exit the platform once you hit that limit, which parents will determine based on their needs.
These two tools are not new YouTube features, and can be accessed individually through your account settings. But the video platform has also grouped them as part of the new time watched profile in order to create a space for users to "develop your own sense of digital wellbeing," according to the YouTube blog.
Brian Marquardt, YouTube's product manager, told Romper in an email:
These tools will help people better understand their tech usage, focus on what matters most and disconnect when needed. Our goal is to provide a better understanding of time spent on YouTube, so you can make informed decisions about how you want YouTube to best fit into your life.
Personally, I don't spend much time on YouTube beyond leaving music videos on loop in the background while I work. And I don't let my 3-year-old son watch YouTube because I don't trust kids videos, to be honest. But I do appreciate the intrinsic value in having a one-stop space that helps families understand and control how they exist in the digital world.
The fact is, for as wonderful as technology may be, the way people, particularly parents, use tech can be detrimental. A recent study published in the journal Pediatric Research found that excessive tech use that disrupts family time can cause poor behavior in kids. And other researchers have come to similar conclusions: A 2016 Developmental Science study, for example, found that young children, including babies, expressed more distress when their mothers were on their phones.
This, of course, isn't meant to admonish parents obsessed with tech. I am one of them, mostly because of the nature of my job. But as parents, it's important to know how tech influences our lives, for better or worse. Technology is an integral part of society, and unless you start a life off the grid, you won't get away from it. But that doesn't mean you can't use tech more efficiently so that your time with your family offline is more meaningful.