Is Digital Wellbeing A Spy App? A Question Of Your Phone’s Security

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Have you ever wondered what the Digital Wellbeing app is doing on your phone when you never downloaded it?

A lot of my friends have this question. In fact, one of my friends confronted his wife about spying on him because he thought she installed Digital Wellbeing on his Android phone. Determining if it’s a spy or a system app can be confusing because of its name and unknown use. 

In this article, I will show you the actual use of Digital Wellbeing and understand whether it’s a spy app.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital Wellbeing is not a spy app.
  • Digital Wellbeing lets you see how often and for how long you use your Android device.
  • You can use Digital Wellbeing to limit the use of apps and websites you are addicted to or using the most.
  • You can disable Digital Wellbeing in Settings.

Is Digital Wellbeing A Spy App?

Dashboard of Digital Wellbeing and parental controls app

Digital Wellbeing is not a spy app. It is an Android application developed by Google to help you manage your time on your Android phone. You can think of Digital Wellbeing like iPhone’s Screen Time but for Android devices. The app aims to be helpful instead of a way to spy on someone.

Such system names can be confusing because many spy apps look like system names when installed on the target device. For example, mSpy uses the name “Update Service” in the app list. Similarly, uMobix uses “Play Services,” and KidsGuard Pro uses “System Update Service.”

What Does Digital Wellbeing Do?

The Digital Wellbeing app lets you get a sense of how you use your Android smartphone. Put simply, it lets you track your digital wellness. If you find that you are using an application too much, you can set a limit to it.

I use it to improve my productivity. You see, I am a freelance content writer by profession, and I work from home. Therefore, it is very challenging for me to balance work and entertainment.

In fact, I spend a lot of my time on Netflix, YouTube, and Instagram, which impacts my productivity. This is when the Digital Wellness app comes in handy. I now have a daily limit on these apps so they pause whenever I hit the limit, and their notifications are turned off.

How To Access Digital Wellbeing Settings

You can use all Digital Wellbeing features and tools by accessing its settings on your phone. Here’s how to access the app and use all its features for your digital wellness.

  1. Open the Settings app on your phone.
Settings app icon in the app drawer
  1. Scroll down to find “Digital Wellbeing & parental controls.”
Digital Wellbeing and parental controls option in settings
  1. From here, you can set up timers, bedtime mode, focus mode, etc.
Timer settings of Digital Wellbeing

How To Disable Tracking In The Digital Wellbeing App

While going through Google’s privacy policy, I discovered that Google uses a lot of our personal data to improve and personalize its services. It does the same through the Digital Wellbeing app. Whatever data this app records for improving our digital wellness is shared with Google.

However, Google also allows us to stop Digital Wellbeing from accessing the data. I prefer disabling it over the weekend because that’s when I don’t want it to interrupt my binge-watching sessions. There are two ways to do so: by disabling the access to data or by disabling the app itself.

The fundamental difference between the two is that disabling the app itself will prevent any future updates.

In case you prefer not to allow the app to access your data, follow these steps:

  1. Open settings and tap Digital Wellbeing & parental controls.
Digital Wellbeing and parental controls option in settings
  1. Tap the three vertical dots at the top-right corner of the screen.
Three dots menu icon at the top right corner
  1. Select the “Manage your data” option.
Manage your data option in the menu
  1. Toggle off the “Daily phone usage” and other data you want Digital Wellbeing to stop accessing.
Daily phone usage toggle option in manage your data settings

If you want to disable the app itself and prevent it from getting any future updates, follow these steps.

  1. Open settings and select Apps & notifications or App Management.
Apps and notifications option in the settings
  1. Find and select Digital Wellbeing.
Digital Wellbeing in the list of apps
  1. Tap the “Disable” option.
Disable option for Digital Wellbeing app

How To Use Google’s Digital Wellbeing For Parental Control

Start page of Google’s Digital Wellbeing app

Besides digital wellness, Digital Wellbeing is also useful for parental control. If you’re a parent, you might want to monitor your child’s digital habits. Consider my example: I am the guardian of my nephew, who has recently become very fond of Instagram.

Now, I don’t want to stop him from using the app, as it is a way of socializing in today’s digital world. But I also don’t want him to spend all his time scrolling through reels or chatting with his friends. Thanks to Digital Wellbeing, I can set a time limit on his Instagram usage.

Here are a few prerequisites and things you should know before you use this app for parental control:

  • Your child’s phone should have a Google account linked to it.
  • You should know the password of the Google account linked to the target device.
  • Your child will be notified that his device is being monitored as soon as you connect your and their Gmail account.
  • Parental control happens through another Google app called Family Link (the data is recorded in Digital Wellbeing).

How To Connect 2 Phones With Digital Wellbeing & Family Link

Family Link integrates with Digital Wellbeing to enable parental control. It takes all the data captured by Digital Wellbeing and allows parents to set timers accordingly on their child’s phone. 

This means that if you want to monitor your child’s digital habits, it’s essential to connect your and your child’s smartphones through both the Digital Wellbeing and the Family Link apps.

Here’s how to connect two smartphones and monitor your child’s digital habits. I have linked my device with my mother’s for this demonstration, so you will see my profile here as the child’s profile.

  1. Navigate to Digital Wellbeing on your phone using the steps mentioned above.
  2. Scroll down and tap Set up parental controls.
Parental controls option in the app settings
  1. Tap “Get started.”
Get started button at the bottom right corner
  1. Select Parent when asked who will be using this device.
Parent option selected for setting a profile in the app
  1. Install the Family Link app.
Get family link button to install the family link app
  1. Select the Gmail account with which you want to continue.
Welcome page of Family Link app
  1. Open Settings > Google on your child’s phone.
Google option in the phone settings
  1. Select Parental controls from the available options.
Parental controls option inside Google option
  1. Select “Child or teen” when asked who will use this device.
Child or teen option selected for setting a profile in the app
  1. Select the Gmail account you want to monitor and enter its password.
Google account selection screen
  1. Enter your Gmail account ID and password on the child’s device.
Option to link parent account with child's device
  1. Allow supervision and wait for the accounts to be linked.
Parent and child accounts are linked

How To Use Family Link To Control Your Child’s Device Usage

Once you have connected both accounts through Digital Wellbeing and the Google Account settings, you can start controlling your child’s digital habits using these steps:

  1. Open the Family Link app on your phone to see your child’s profile.
Child's profile info on the parent device
  1. Here, you will see three primary options: Content restrictions, Account settings, and Devices. Through these settings, you can restrict the content your child watches on YouTube, Google Play, Google Chrome, etc. You can also change your child’s Google account settings.
Content restriction settings for the child's device
  1. When you select the Devices option from the profile, you can set app timers, see data usage, enable location sharing, etc.
Different settings and info of the child's device
  1. From the home page, you can switch to the “Location” tab at the bottom right corner of the screen to find your child’s device’s location.
Location option at the bottom right corner
  1. Switch to the “Highlights” tab at the bottom-left corner of the home page to view details like total screen time, most used app, average screen time per day, etc.
Highlights option at the bottom left corner
  1. Click on screen time from here to see the detailed analysis of usage data.
Time usage info of different apps

What Not To Do With The Digital Wellbeing App?

Digital Wellbeing is an easy-to-use app for monitoring and managing your digital wellness. It also allows you to control your child’s online habits. However, you shouldn’t try to use it as spyware. It is excellent for basic parental controls but not for spying.

For those scenarios, you will need spy apps like mSpy or uMobix. Spy apps offer advanced features like social media monitoring, keylogging, geofencing, and more. Since Digital Wellbeing lacks these spying features, it’s not likely to be effective. So, I recommend you just use this app for basic parental control like screen time usage, app restrictions, and location tracking.

So, Can Digital Wellbeing Be Called A Spy App?

So you now have learned that Digital Wellbeing is not a spy app. It can be used for parental control and the app can be handy to monitor and manage your child’s screen activity, but it cannot be called spyware.

I hope the information I shared in this article is helpful. If you have any questions about Digital Wellbeing, write them in the comment section, and I will get back to you with an answer.

About The Authors

  • Kailash Vaviya

    Kailash Vaviya is a freelance writer who started writing in 2019 and has never stopped since then as he fell in love with it. He has a soft corner for technology and likes to read, learn, and write about it. His content is focused on providing information to help build a brand presence and gain engagement. You can connect with him on: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    View all posts
  • Jenn Peters

    Jenn Peters is an experienced content manager and editor who holds a degree in English and certifications in Social Media Marketing and Copywriting from the College of Media and Publishing. She has been working for TechUntold since 2018. In addition, Jenn works as a content editor for Valnet across 7 company sites, publishing numerous articles weekly. Connect with Jenn on LinkedIn.

    View all posts
Photo of author

Kailash Vaviya

Kailash Vaviya is a freelance writer who started writing in 2019 and has never stopped since then as he fell in love with it. He has a soft corner for technology and likes to read, learn, and write about it. His content is focused on providing information to help build a brand presence and gain engagement. You can connect with him on: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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