Could changing your phone display reduce your use? Expert recommends removing the color from your screen to make it less stimulating

Setting the mobile phone’s color scheme to gray scale may help curb device addiction, according to Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. The expert explained that the bright colors commonly displayed in different apps subconsciously stimulate the brain and spur enthusiasm among users. Harris noted that the color red, a color chosen for notifications, appears youthful and bold and may even trigger excitement.

Harris also explained that Snapchat’s yellow logo works well for the app, as the color was commonly associated with happiness and optimism. In addition, the expert cited that the color blue – which was adapted by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites –  remains to be the world’s most popular color as it evokes trustworthiness, reliability and professionalism.

“Phones are like a slot machine, as it operates on a reward system. Sometimes you’re checking your phone, and you’re playing a slot machine, and you get a message from the person you love…it feels really good. Then sometimes you check your phone and there’s nothing there and the fact you sometimes get something and sometimes you don’t, is what makes it just like a slot machine,” Harris said.

“The main narrative to correct is that we have this belief that technology is neutral and it is always up to us to choose what we post on Facebook or how we use Snapchat or what we use our phone for. What this misses is that there is an attention economy where companies need to maximize how much attention they are getting from you,” Harris added.

According to Harris, setting the phone into gray scale may dampen the feeling of excitement in opening and operating certain apps. This in turn may result in users feeling less compelled to check their devices, Harris said. Thomas Z. Ramsoy, the chief executive of Copenhagen-based tech analysis firm Neurons, lauded the suggestion and remarked that the technique may work even better if the sounds were turned off. (Related: Teenagers waste 40 days a year looking at mobile devices, startling research discovers.)

More teens suffer from phone addiction, survey shows

Harris’ recommendations may hold potential implications in phone addiction management, especially among teens. In fact, a 2016 survey carried out by nonprofit group Common Sense Media revealed that more teens reported being addicted to their mobile devices. The poll was based on a cohort population of more than 1,200 teens and their parents.

The results revealed that 50 percent of teen respondents and 59 percent of their parents agreed that teens were addicted to their devices. The poll also showed that respondents aged 13 to 18 years old used their devices for up to nine hours daily. This was a stark difference compared with younger kids aged eight to 12 years old, who only spent nearly six hours per day.

Mobile device addiction was also found to wreak havoc on the teen respondents’ relationship with their parents. According to the survey, about a third of respondents reported arguing with their parents regarding screen time. The poll also showed that 77 percent of parents agreed that their teens appeared distracted by mobile devices even during family time.

Outside expert Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development, lauded the survey for raising important concerns, but cautioned that the findings should serve as an alarming wake up call for parents.

“It is a good thing that parents and educators are focused on kids’ social and emotional learning and asking the right questions — many of which we don’t know the answers to yet. We need to devote more time and research to understanding the impact of media use on our kids and then adjust our behavior accordingly,” Wartella said in a Boston Globe article.

Learn more about the dangers of mobile phone misuse and addiction by visiting

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