How to Use YouTube’s Digital Wellbeing Tool to Monitor Your Screen Time

We are becoming more aware of the possible harmful effects associated with excessive screen time. Because of that, digital companies are adding tools to improve our digital wellbeing. Google has begun rolling out its answer to screen addiction with digital wellbeing tools. All of their tools are not yet available unless you are running Android Pi, but everyone has access to those tools with the latest version of YouTube.

What Is Digital Wellbeing?

In the past we joked about being addicted to our phones, but then actual research came out explaining that it was actually true. Using our phones gives our brains an extra dose of dopamine, creating a good feeling that we can become addicted to. However, we build up a tolerance to that chemical and continually need more to produce the same reaction. This, of course, is similar to the way drugs affect us.


Too much Internet and smartphone usage can have these adverse effects.

  • Increasing loneliness and depression
  • Fueling anxiety
  • Increasing stress
  • Making attention deficit disorders worse
  • Reducing your ability to concentrate and think deeply or creatively
  • Disturbing your sleep
  • Encouraging self-absorption

Google’s Response to Smartphone Addiction

Digital Wellbeing tools from Google are designed to monitor your wellbeing by keeping track of the amount of time you spend on the phone and your various apps. When you receive the rollout, the tools will record the number of times you unlock your phone and the number of notifications you receive. You can set limits on the time you use the app, and you will not be able to bypass it.

YouTube’s latest app update includes its own set of digital wellbeing tools. It is capable of monitoring the total amount of time you spend watching videos. The app keeps these records for the past week’s worth of usage.

You can choose to set reminders to indicate you are going over your time limit for the day, but you can easily ignore those reminders. As long as you are okay with the reminders continuing to pop up, you can keep watching. Change the frequency of those reminders, and they may not be as annoying.

The notifications YouTube sends you can be limited to a daily digest with all of the day’s notifications coming in one group. This way you won’t be distracted by every notification that comes up. You can also limit the temptation to follow those notifications to the next video. Turn off the sounds and vibrations that accompany them or use the “Do Not Disturb” option.

These tools are turned off by default in the YouTube app. To use them you have to go in and activate them.

The option for their digital wellbeing is only available on the app, not on a browser page. It also does not count the time you are using YouTube TV or YouTube Music.

Access the wellbeing settings

Open the settings from your YouTube account, not your main system settings.


Tap “Time Watched” to display the time you’ve watched. (Disclaimer: I did not view five hours of YouTube yesterday. It plays in the background while I work.)


The options for managing the time you are watching YouTube are at the bottom the page.


To access the rest of the wellbeing options, tap Settings near the bottom of the list. From there, tap General. This area is where you can set reminders to remind you to take a break after a certain amount of time. The default is an hour and fifteen minutes, but you can change it by clicking on the option and selecting a new time.


Under the “Time Watched” option you can eliminate some of the distractions that keep you watching when you should be doing something else. Turn off the autoplay setting, disable your sound and vibrations that come with the notifications, and change it to the scheduled digest choice, so you only see them once a day. Again, if you tap that option, you will change the time of day that comes to you.

You can find the Scheduled digest and Disable sounds and vibrations in the Notifications settings as well.


Most likely, if you are already looking out for your digital wellbeing, you are already limiting your own screen time. Those who probably need it won’t be apt to go in and turn on all of these distraction limiting tools. However, it is a handy thing to have if you are a YouTube addict and you want to break the addiction.

Tracey Rosenberger
Tracey Rosenberger

Tracey Rosenberger spent 26 years teaching elementary students, using technology to enhance learning. Now she's excited to share helpful technology with teachers and everyone else who sees tech as intimidating.

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