A new mobile application aims to bribe students into ignoring their phones during class, reports The Verge.
Pocket Points, developed by a California State University (CSU) at Chico, tracks how long a smartphone remains locked while in a classroom on campus and doles out points at certain benchmarks.
For every 20 minutes a phone stays locked, students earn a single point. However, if multiple students on campus run the app simultaneously, awards are given out faster.
The thousands of students at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and CSU-Chico who have downloaded the app can then redeem the points for discounts at campus stores and local businesses. At Penn State, for example, users earn a 15% discount on university apparel once they rack up 10 points.
The app comes at a time of growing concern about the effects of cellphone overuse. A study last year from Baylor University discovered that students spend an average of eight to ten hours per day on their cell phones—and around 60% of students admit they could be addicted to their phone. Researchers say they are concerned that phones are being used as an "escape mechanism" or a way to cheat.
A more recent study discovered that some students can suffer from "iPhone separation anxiety." Researchers moved students' phones out-of-reach and then called the phones, causing them to ring while students were unable to answer. Students' heart rates increased, blood pressure increased, and performance on a task decreased.
The researchers concluded that the anxiety was less focused on the phone itself and more on what that phone represents: "their social life… the connection to friends [and] family." Ultimately, researchers encourage students—and anyone else—to turn off cellphones when undertaking a mentally demanding task (McCormick, Verge, 2/4; Seitz, Columbia Chronicle, 1/26; Wood, PsychCentral, 1/31/2014).
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