Pocket Aces: Commitment and Incentives Against Smartphone Usage for Students

Nearly half of US smartphone owners make an effort to limit their use, but only 30% succeed. Usage is particularly high among teens, who spend an average of nine hours per day on their phones. Studies have linked increased smartphone usage to decreased sleep, lower student learning, and negative worker productivity. This study centers on a series of field experiments conducted with Pocket Points, an app that acts as a commitment device and provides tangible incentives to students for curtailing smartphone usage. Students open the app, lock their phone, and start accumulating “points” while the app verifies the student’s location and activity using GPS coordinates. Points can then be used to get discounts at participating businesses. A pilot study found that students randomly encouraged to use Pocket Points at Texas A&M experienced positive academic outcomes, including higher grades and improved in-class focus. In this study, we implement a series of treatment arms across a multitude universities to incentivize staying off the phone while in the classroom as well as during sleep hours. Outcomes will be collected through app usage, surveys (e.g. sleep quality), GPS coordinates (e.g. time spent on campus), and transcripts (e.g. course grades).

RFP Cycle:
Ed Tech RFP II [April 2019]
United States of America
  • Full project