In a pre-emptive kickback against society’s growing worry that our lives are being ruined by digital addiction, tech giants are finally making baby steps to improve our “digital wellbeing.” The first step, as you’d expect, is to work out how big the problem is, and that means new tools in iOS and Android 9 that let you monitor how much time you’re wasting on various services.
Starting today, Google is extending those stats to YouTube, arguably its most addictive product. “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,” the company wrote in its blog post.
At the core of the change is a new Time watched section in your account menu, which you can get to through the YouTube app on iOS or Android. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to access it through the web browser. The time watched only extends up to the past seven days, so if you want to track your bingeing habits over a longer time scale, you’ll need to record the data somewhere else.
According to YouTube’s help page, the time watched only reflects videos and YouTube TV shows you’ve watched while signed into YouTube with your user account, and doesn’t account for things you’ve watched in incognito or deleted from your watch history (yes, kids, there are still ways around this). It doesn’t include time spent watching YouTube Music, either.
You can also limit YouTube’s push notifications to one daily digest, which is good regardless of your state of mental health.
Finally, there’s also a way to add a “friendly reminder” to take a break when you’ve watched too much YouTube for the day:
Remind yourself to take a break: Once you know how much time you’re spending in the app, you may want to set a limit. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re having fun, which is why we’ll help you set up a reminder to take a break. Just head over to your settings and pick the amount of YouTube time that’s right for you. Once you’ve hit that limit, a friendly reminder will pop up on your screen.
It’s still no replacement for an angry parent or partner physically ripping away your device and forcing you to interact with the real world, but at least it’s a start.