Onward - Reduce Tech Addiction

App review by
Dana Anderson, Common Sense Media
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Powerful help if motivated, but major privacy concerns.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Teens can learn how much time they're spending on screens and what kind of content they're using that time on, and self-reflect on internet time and grow in self-awareness. Establishing better self-control and time management. Mental health skills.

Ease of Play

Very easy to use; usage graphs easy to read. Filter placed on blocked content can be "snoozed."

Violence
Sex

Mentions internet porn during setup.

Language
Consumerism

Pushes the Pro subscription at time of sign-up; even if users decline the free trial for Pro, the app still enables it, telling users they won't be charged and that they'd benefit from trying it out. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Onward - Reduce Tech Addiction encourages "tech-life balance" by tracking usage across devices and creating reports that detail where and how much time users hang out online. The paid Pro version can also block problem websites and apps, like gambling and porn. Both the free and Pro version require users to add VPN configurations to their device and agree that "all network activity" on the device can be filtered or monitored. Note: This app can collect and track the bulk of your phone's usage, and that data can be shared with third parties (though without personally identifying information). Read the app's privacy policy to find out more about the types of information collected and shared. 

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What's it about?

To use ONWARD - REDUCE TECH ADDICTION, first enter your name. Then choose one of three issues you need help with: Screen Time, Gambling, or Porn. Tap "first steps" to watch the intro video. To continue, allow all network activity on your phone to be filtered through a VPN. Next, the app asks if you'd like to upgrade to Pro to block "disruptive" apps and websites. Even if you say no, the app turns the Pro version on for a week-long trial. The app will begin tracking your usage and send your first report within 24 hours.

Is it any good?

Whether the problem is overuse or addiction, this app is designed to help your teen become aware of the time spent on devices, but -- other than the subscription -- the price is privacy. Onward - Reduce Tech Addiction's developer reports that in two studies it conducted, 89 percent of Onward Pro users reduced their tech usage and 51 percent stopped entirely. Still, if a teen's not motivated to change, this app's effectiveness will likely be limited. For example, the Pro version can block unwanted websites and apps with a filter, but that filter can be "snoozed." Onward can share weekly reports with others to help the user maintain accountability, but only if they want it shared. There's a lot this app can do -- give mindfulness tips, provide AI-based coaching, even create a "customized behavior change program" -- but if teens don't think their tech time is a problem, don't expect this app to convince them otherwise. And it's important to emphasize that installing the app on your kid's phone means that the app is tracking what your kid does on that phone -- and that data may be shared with third parties. If you're concerned about privacy, it might be better to start with the device controls, conversations, and a family media agreement before giving up so much data.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what else teens can do to balance their on-screen and offscreen time, either in addition to using a tool like Onward - Reduce Tech Addiction or instead of it. Read Common Sense Media's How can I get my kids to put down their phones?.

  • Ask kids if they feel like they overuse social media or if they're addicted to their devices. Ask yourself the same questions. This app is for teens and adults.

  • Onward - Reduce Tech Addiction includes features specific to internet porn sites. Read Common Sense Media's How do I talk to my kids about internet porn? to learn more about this issue.

  • If you're wary of granting so much access to your teen's information, consider showing your kid how to use phone device controls to curb use.

App details

For kids who love time management and mindfulness

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