If you’re anything like me, you probably spend a lot of time on your phone – and I mean A LOT of time. If the modern world is symbolized by anything, it’s the image of people everywhere staring intently into their phones.
I love my phone and I love all of the apps that I use all the time. They help me communicate with my friends and family, inform me about the world, and entertain me. But at the same time, my phone also distracts me from the world around me and can sometimes disconnect me from the people I’m with.
One of the promises of technology is that it will improve our lives. However, while modern smartphones have undoubtedly given us incredible value, they haven’t universally made our lives better, specifically because of the way in which we have become addicted to them.
Some technologies have begun to address this problem. One of the potential use cases of the Apple Watch, for instance, was as a way for us to put our phones down and reconnect with the world. Apple’s smartwatch has had some success and has achieved this to some degree, but there is still a long way to go.
Yet for some of us, our addiction to our phones isn’t just a nuisance, but represents a real challenge to our most important relationships. This is found in the relationships with our partners, and especially with our kids.
With this in mind, Oded Israeli is trying to solve the strain technology has put on our relationships with a new series of apps for parents. The first app in the series, O’Daddy, is designed to help parents find a way to reconnect with their kids.
Israeli, the CEO of the company, is no stranger to the addictive pull of smartphones. He was inspired to create O’Daddy after playing a major role at a top startup. Israeli was in the midst of closing a major funding round from Alibaba when his daughter was born. He was at the hospital with his new child, and yet his phone was still pulling him back to the world of business and deadlines.
“Our kids have to compete for our attention against mobile devices, and many times the devices win,” Israeli said. “Our children then follow our example, get addicted to screens, and find it hard to focus on real life. We’re the last generation of parents who grew up without smartphones, so it’s up to us to preserve what we liked about our own childhood and be present in our kids’ lives everyday.”
How does O’Daddy help parents focus on their kids? It does four main things: it helps parents create time by sending them push reminders; it suggests activities so parents have a ready list of ideas; it helps parents focus on the activity and their kids while they’re doing it; and it helps parents track the time they spend with their kids (think RunKeeper but for doing fun things with your children).
The focus part of the app was really interesting to me. Once you pick an activity, the app basically tells you to put your phone down and stop using it. It keeps track of how much time you spend without using your phone, and credits you with points for the time you spend on the activity. On top of this, the activity recommendations are pretty broad, while also being tailored for the user based on algorithms and crowdsourced ideas from other users.
O’Daddy is taking on a huge problem and will certainly face several challenges. Chief amongst these is the fact that smartphones are amazing and engaging pieces of technology that people love using. Yes, they can pull us away from our friends and family, but maybe we aren’t strong enough to resist them? I hope O’Daddy, and other apps that come along in this area, can help us reconnect with the people we love. I love my phone, but I don’t want it to rule my life.