Free treats for students who put down phones

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter

Three founders of Hold, from left to right - Maths Mathisen, Florian Winder and Vinoth VinayaImage source, Hold
Image caption,
The three founders wanted to find a solution to device distraction

An app that rewards students for time spent away from their phones is being released in the UK.

Hold was developed by three students who met at Copenhagen Business School and wanted to develop something to help with the issue of device distraction.

It has proved popular in Scandinavia, with more than 120,000 users across Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Experts are growing increasingly worried about the issue of device addiction.

According to a 2017 study by the University of Texas, simply having a smartphone within eyeshot can reduce productivity, slow down response speed and reduce grades.

A previous study from the London School of Economics suggested pupils who did not use their smartphones on school grounds saw a 6.4% increase in test scores.

The app will initially be rolled out to 170 universities around the UK. It works on both Android and iOS devices and is free to download.

Students will accumulate 10 points for every 20 minutes that they do not use their mobile phone between 07:00 and 23:00 every day of the week.

Points can be exchanged for goods and services within the app's marketplace, with brands such as Caffe Nero, Vue cinemas and Amazon signed up.

To earn two free coffees, students will need 300 points, which equates to 10 hours on the Hold app. For free popcorn at the cinema, they will need to spend two hours to accrue 60 points.

Students can also exchange their points for books and stationery which are donated to schools via Unicef.

Mental health

The founders - Maths Mathisen, Florian Winder and Vinoth Vinaya - have all experienced the issue of device distraction.

Mr Mathisen said: "Having come up with the idea for this app during my time as a student, I knew first-hand how difficult it is to concentrate while studying when you have the option to text, snap, or play games on your phone.

"With Hold, our mission is to limit these distractions by rewarding students and giving them an incentive to focus on their work.

"The fact that a quarter of students in Norway downloaded Hold in just three months since launch, shows that young people are ready to make that change and put their phones to the side while they study."

There are growing concerns among health professionals that spending too much time on devices is affecting the concentration and wider mental health of young people.

Dr Louise Theodosiou, a consultant psychiatrist at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, said: "It is positive to see apps which acknowledge that students will be using their phones and provide real solutions to help balance the use of technology.

"We know that wellbeing can be enhanced by exercise and engaging with friends and family.

"Rewards which could be linked to travel or social activities could be an incentive to students managing their money.

"We know that young people today are reporting higher rates of mental health needs.

"Social media is a tool which can be both positive and negative and supporting young people to learn to structure how and when they use it can be a valuable tool."