At first, it sounds absurd that anyone would need a special app just to motivate them to take breaks from their phone. But all you have to do is look around any public space to know "phubbing" (slang for snubbing a human being in favor of your phone) is a problem to which almost none of us are immune.
Enter Forest, a new app for iOS and Android that turns the act of staying off your phone into a kind of game. With the tagline "Stay focused. Stop phubbing", Forest motivates users to take half-hour breaks by encouraging them to plant and grow an animated “tree” within the app. It works like this: When you want to take a break from your phone, you open Forest and "plant a tree." As the clock ticks to 30 minutes, the animated tree grows on your screen. But if you leave the app for any reason (i.e., to answer a text, or open Instagram, Facebook or Twitter), your tree dies — hence the motivation aspect.
The app encourages users to grow their forests over time by collecting trees, with each tree representing 30 minutes of time uninterrupted by the temptations of the little screen in their pockets. It's easy to imagine Forest being a hit with the parents of teens and tweens, and the phrase "Plant a tree" being bandied about a family dinner table.