Author: Alison Fung
with Dr. Guanghai Wang,
Clinical Psychologist and Sleep Specialist
and Lei Jin, Educational Psychologist

Most of us are so dependent on our smartphones that they feel like an extension to our bodies. We couldn’t possibly survive a day without our devices and if, god forbid, we lose our phones, a feeling of panic and anxiety sets in. A 2016 survey conducted among 15,747 American adults by Gallup found that more than half check their smartphones at least a few times an hour. Meanwhile, 81% of smartphone users say they keep their phone near them “almost all the time during waking hours.”

If you’re considering a digital detox to break your dependency or addiction, we’ve compiled a list of apps to help.


Forest: Simple, Cute, and Effective

Using a bit of emotional manipulation, this app has one simple but effective premise. You set a certain amount of time to focus by planting a cute little virtual tree. As long as you don’t leave the app, the tree will grow, but if you exit the app before the time is up, your little tree dies. It may be virtual, but the guilt feels real. You can build your own forest, with each tree representing the amount of time you’ve stayed focused. The app company has even partnered up with the Trees for the Future initiative, allowing you to donate through the app to plant real trees. Get off your phone and save the planet!

Available on Android (free) and iOS (prices vary by country, including 1.99 USD, 12 RMB) in English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.


Moment: Track Your Device Usage (and Your Family’s)

This app allows you to track how much you use your iPhone or iPad on a day-to-day basis, including which apps you use the most. Moment lets you set yourself a daily limit, notify you when you’ve gone over, and even force you off your phone. A newer feature, Moment Family, allows you to become a digital tyrant and reign over your household, by monitoring your family’s device use, setting their daily limits, and enforcing an amount of screen-free time for family activities, such as dinner time.

Available on Android and iOS (free, with a one-time fee to unlock premium). English.


Freedom: Block Distractions on Phones and Computers

The idea of this app is to free you from time-wasting distractions such as YouTube or Facebook and improve your focus and productivity. You can add websites and apps to customized block lists and assign them across multiple devices. Freedom also gives you the option to block the entire internet, for those moments when you really need to get off the grid.

Available on WindowsMaciOS with subscriptions at different price levels. Free trial available. English.


Onward: For Serious Tech Addicts

Check out our first article on how to achieve a healthy-tech life balance.

If you feel there are deeper issues at hand in the way you or your children are spending time on their devices, with a serious, negative impact on yours or their mental health, consult an expert. You can contact us at ELG for a consultation with our specialists who can help you or your child overcome tech addiction.