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Facebook adds tools to help users track time spent — and set time limits

The new features come amid growing concerns from mental health experts and a vocal group of technologists about the impact social media is having on people.
by Jacob Taylor /
Image: FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is reflected on a woman's glasses in this photo illustration
The new features come amid growing concerns from mental health experts.Regis Duvignau / Reuters

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Facebook announced on Wednesday new features meant to help people manage and limit the amount of time they spend on the company's apps.

The new tools give users their daily average of time spent on both the Facebook and Instagram apps, as well as the ability to set a time limit for daily use and mute app notifications for a specific time period.

The new features come amid growing concerns from mental health experts and a vocal group of technologists about the impact social media is having on people.

Ameet Ranadive, product management director at Instagram, and David Ginsberg, director of research at Facebook, wrote in a blog post that the new features were designed with the goal of addressing these issues.

“We developed these tools based on collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organizations, academics, our own research and feedback from our community,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. “We want the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram to be intentional, positive and inspiring.”

Instagram and Facebook have already been updating and improving the apps to help users limit and enjoy their time online. Facebook added new feature to its News Feed that allowed people to hide posts, unfollow people and snooze keywords, while Instagram created the “You’re All Caught Up” indicator, which tells people when they have seen all updates in their feed.

“It’s not just about the time people spend on Facebook and Instagram but how they spend that time,” Ranadive and Ginsberg wrote in the post. “It’s our responsibility to talk openly about how time online impacts people — and we take that responsibility seriously. These new tools are an important first step, and we are committed to continuing our work to foster safe, kind and supportive communities for everyone.”

Facebook is not the first company to introduce features that help people track how they use their smartphones. Apple and Google have each introduced similar tools in their mobile operating systems that provide users with a broad idea of what they do on their phones — and how much time they spend in any particular app.

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