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Facebook launches tools to help users limit time spent on the site

Facebook is introducing new tools including an activity dashboard, a daily reminder and a new way to limit notifications, in order to help people control the amount of time they spend on the site.

The social network said it developed the tools based on “collaboration and inspiration from leading mental health experts and organizations, academics, our own extensive research and feedback from our community”.

Coming to both the social media site and photo-sharing platform Instagram, the tools will include a graph that breaks down when users go on the sites and for how long.

Users will be able to see how much time they spend on the apps for the sites and set a daily reminder to bring up an alert once they’ve used them for a set period of time.

They will also be able to mute all Facebook notifications for set periods if they do not want to be distracted during that time.

Facebook director for the UK and Ireland Steve Hatch said the tools, which start rolling out to users worldwide on Wednesday, would help raise user awareness of how they are spending their time online.

“We all recognise that technology is playing a greater role in our daily lives,” he said. “We feel a responsibility to help ensure that time on Facebook is time well spent.”

Earlier this year, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said the firm was committed to improving the “meaningful” time people spent on the site, even if that meant less time spent on Facebook overall.

It comes as the social platform continues to face intense scrutiny over some of its practices, including how it polices content and users.

In response to the new tools, children’s charity the NSPCC said the site is still not doing enough to protect young people.

Laura Randall, the charity’s head of child safety online, said: “Facebook and Instagram state they want to ensure their platforms are safe but to do so, they need to tackle serious problems within their sites.

“Time limits do not address the fact that there are still no consistent child safety standards in place. Apps, sites and games continue to allow violent and sexual content to be accessed by children; and sexual predators are free to roam their platforms, targeting and grooming young people.

“This lack of responsibility is why the legislation the government has committed to must include a mandatory child safety code with an independent regulator to enforce consequences for those who don’t follow those rules.”

Facebook’s new tools are similar to digital well-being features being introduced later this year by both Apple and Google to their mobile phone platforms.

Both, like Facebook, will show users how often they use their phone and the various apps, with time limits able to be set to help them cut down.

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