“When Google launched its first “Digital Wellbeing” tools on Pixel phones last year, it took a more prescriptive approach to curbing screen time. You could monitor usage habits and set time limits on individual apps, but to use an app for more time on a particular day, you had to disable the limits entirely. Google’s time limits also didn’t reduce the flow of notifications from distracting apps, which are often what draw us back into our phones to begin with.

Maggie Stanphill, Google’s director of user experience for Digital Wellbeing, says the company has since realized it needs to offer more granularity.

“What we found is that if we made too many assumptions, it was not the useful experience people were hoping for, and they might indeed abandon [the tools],” she says. “We wanted to make sure they had a lot of agency.”

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