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Startup solves smartphone addiction by sending offending devices to jail

Smartphone addiction is a real problem, especially among students. However, one US company has a rather radical solution: Phone prison. 



Picture the scene. The stale smell of the classroom is suffocating, the single overhead fan whirls aimlessly in circles – a visual demonstration of you attempting to further your education. Bzzz Bzzz. Your pocket vibrates, you grip the smooth fusion of glass and metal, bringing it towards your eyes. Scroll, double tap. Scroll, double tap. The bell rings. You’re now two hours behind where you need to be, you’re clueless about the test first period tomorrow, and wait. What assessment?

Who’s more to blame, the smartphone or the student? Graham Dugoni, the founder of Yondr, believes he has a solution: a small grey pouch that locks smartphones away from the fingers and eyes of addicted users. Since this initiative began in 2014, hundreds of thousands of the pouches have been used in schools, courtrooms, concerts, medical facilities, weddings and other events in Australia, North American and Europe.

The principle behind them is quite simple. Once placed inside, the pouches stay locked until the owners are ready to leave the premises. At exists, ‘unlocking bays’ are positioned to free the device from its prison. They can be rented for single events or on extended leases – as seen in over 600 US schools.


The principle behind them is quite simple. Once placed inside, the pouches stay locked until the owners are ready to leave the premises.


Behavioural patterns are the same. First comes the anger, then the frustrated fidgeting. Next comes the reluctant small-talk which quickly fades into socialising, sports, reading and other interpersonal recreation activities. One principal of San Lorenzo High School in California states that “Grades have gone up, and discipline problems have plummeted. Referrals for defiance and disrespect are down 82 percent…most of them stemmed from arguments between students and teachers over phone use in class.”

“The campus is really loud now,” Principal Allison Silvestri said. “Students are interacting, talking to each other, reading, kicking a ball, socialising — because they’re not standing in a circle texting each other.”

Showing such promise, it’s likely we’ll see these implemented in Australian schools in the next decade as we continue to realise the radical effect phone usage has on unarticulated angst and human social behaviour.

“I don’t think people realise how radically different it is to be a human being with a phone in your pocket,” Dugoni said.



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