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This Year’s Best Christmas Present Is an Empty Box to Destroy Screen Time Addiction

Here's why it's big in Sweden.

In 1994, Swedish firm HUI Research predicted that mobile phones would be the årets julklapp, the most popular Christmas gift of the year that “represents the time we’re living in” and “has received new interest this year.” Other auspicious winners include cap (2003), poker kit (2005), and everyone’s favorite, pre-packed bag of groceries (2011).

Joining this long, weird lineage is this year’s årets julklappen låda. That means “a box,” for those of you who didn’t do a semester studying Svenska in Göteberg. More specifically, this year’s winner is a box for your phone. No, not a case, but a box that makes it impossible to use your smartphone.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this selection was the manifestation of a particularly quirky Scandanavian sense of humor. On the contrary, it reflects a serious concern shared by people around the world.

“Swedes are reflecting more and more on the use of their phones, and are now increasingly trying to adjust their behavior accordingly. Already today, for example, there are apps to control screen time. The ‘phone box’ is a tool for the times of the day where you want to put away your phone to read a book, sleep or spend time with family instead,” said HUI Research CEO Jonas Arnberg.

Now let’s state the obvious: any box big enough to hold a phone is a phone box. There’s no reason your average Swede couldn’t use, say, a box that previously held a certain red, aquatic-themed candy or even a blue bag from an assemble it yourself furniture retailer to limit the skärmtid (screentime) of themselves and/or their kids.

Still, if you were a well-meaning Swede who wanted to invest in a dedicated box to store your phone during screen-free time, you’d have a ton of different options. A cursory search for “phone box” turns up a cell phone jail, a fake book-slash-Faraday cage, and even a sanitizing box. All are more expensive than any other box (or drawer or cabinet or other room or self-control) the recipient might already possess, but it’s the thought that counts, after all.

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The mobile phone box is a worthy successor to the recycled garment, last year’s årets julklapp, chosen out of a concern for the coming climate cataclysm.

Were recycled clothes actually the most popular gift in the country? Almost certainly not. Did their selection reflect a deep level of anxiety about climate change the same way this year’s pick does about screen time? Definitely!

So once you’ve had a chuckle at the idea of a loved one unwrapping a box to find an empty box designed to cut them off from social media for a while, consider doing as the Swdes do: go for a walk and leave your phone behind.