Pocket Points effectively convinces students to stay off their phones

Since students received their first phone, they’ve constantly been told to stay off it by parents, teachers and even media outlets. Students often consider using less screen time to focus on studies, but sometimes can’t help themselves.

In 2014, Mitch Gardner and Rob Richardson founded Pocket Points in order to detach students from their phones. Sitting in on a lecture at California State University, Chico, they noticed most students were paying more attention to their phones rather than their professors.

Initially, they thought if professors offered extra credit as an incentive for students to stay off their phones, students would feel motivated to do so. However, professors believed that the extra burden of monitoring students’ phone usage shouldn’t fall on the professors themselves.

Gardner and Richardson looked in another direction to incentivize students. They decided coupons and free food was a great way to motivate students.  

Professors have mixed views about the app. Patrick Penfield, a professor from the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, questions the app’s purpose.

“Should you really reward someone on following the rules?” Penfield said via Syracuse University’s “News in A Multimedia World.”

Although the app has received criticism, it has continued to grow in popularity. Four years since its inception, over 200 schools in the United States and Canada have been added to the app, with the University of Maryland being one of them. Students gain points for locking their phones, and with the points they accumulate, they’re able to redeem discounts.

Candice Lee, a sophomore fire protection engineering major at UMD, has used the app for over a year. For the week of Oct. 22, Lee consistently held the No. 2 position for all Maryland students.

“Initially I was confused, because I thought it was a scam, but after trying it out, I realized it wasn't and have used it ever since,” Lee said. “I feel like at times it motivates me to stay off my phone. There are some days where I will want to use my phone no matter what, but I feel like it's easy to just turn on the app and lock my phone for hours at a time.”

Delving deeper into midterm season, Lee relies on the app to keep off her phone and focused on studying.

“During the beginning of the year I forgot about the app and just recently started using it again as my midterm season started,” Lee said.“I actually save a lot of my points, but I do plan on getting Chick-Fil-A and Marathon Deli fries!”