Press-Republican

August 26, 2013

App quizzes kids before phone use

By JAVIER SIMON
Press-Republican

---- — CHAZY — In school hallways across the country, students walk around with smartphones in their pockets, raising concern among parents who believe their children interact with phones far too much.

Erick Vreeken, 40, of Chazy, decided to do something about it. Instead of keeping his kids away from their phones, however, he decided to turn his children’s cellphone use into a learning experience.

Vreeken developed Study Lock, a smartphone application that blocks teenagers’ access unless they answer grade-appropriate multiple choice questions in subjects such as math, science, writing and history.

Study Lock kicks in when phones go on standby.

“Every time you swipe to unlock your phone, you will be presented with study lock,” Vreeken said.

PHONE ADDICTED

Vreeken came up with the app after discovering an eye-opening trend in his children’s behavior. 

“I have two teenagers, and they sit on the couch and text each other,” he said. 

He also raised the point that getting his kids off the phone just to speak a few sentences became a challenge. 

Eventually, he noticed phone use was interfering with his children’s grades. 

That’s when he decided to get his hands dirty. With the help of a few professionals, the self-taught software developer created Study Lock.

NOT JUST PHONES

The Study Lock app is not limited to cellphones. It can be applied to a variety of technologies such as computers and computer tablets.

Before users answer questions prompted by the application, they are blocked from playing games, using the Internet and delivering text messages to numbers that are not predesignated as emergency contacts or 911. 

Questions vary in difficulty. 

Examples include “Who was the first president of the United States?” and “What is the symbol for helium on the periodic table of elements?”

Vreekan believes the app can become especially useful for teens and parents as the market for mobile technology expands.

“Smartphones are getting cheaper and smarter,” he said. “I think the need came when smartphones became so inexpensive that you could go to any public high school and kids have these phones.”

TRACK SUCCESS

In addition to helping kids learn, Vreeken also wants to offer Study Lock users incentives such as prizes. He hopes to gather funds to purchase gifts such as phones, laptops and even a scholarship for college.

Vreeken also wants to give app users the ability to track their success. 

Downloading the app comes with a username and password that people can use to access a website where they can view how well they’re doing in certain subjects. 

Parents have access to their children’s accounts as well. However, Vreeken wants to give parents the freedom to configure their kids’ accounts as much as possible. 

Parents would receive emails indicating stats based on their children’s performances including grades for each subject.

Vreeken intends to upgrade Study Lock in the near future by applying it to specific functions on a smartphone, such as sending text messages and accessing Facebook.

Still, he does not want Study Lock to serve as a restriction or nuisance for kids. 

Instead, he wants kids to learn and feel confident about their academic performance. 

“If kids know they’re doing well, they’re going to feel good.”

Vreekan initially worked on the app himself. He then hired software developers to aid in his pursuit. 

Currently, he is generating awareness and funds by partnering with Rocket Hub, an online community where visitors can pledge their support or funds toward various projects in fields such as movies, music and software. 

Rocket Hub’s campaign for Study Lock will continue until Aug. 30. Vreeken also wants to reach out to corporations that would be interested in donating products as prizes.

To raise more awareness for Study Lock Vreeken, intends to shoot video capturing children’s and parent’s reactions to the app.

“You have to use it (Study Lock) to get your phone open, so you might as well get something out of it,” Vreeken said. 

“In an age of digital distraction, the key is to get something out of it.”

Study Lock will be available to the public in time for the upcoming school year on September 2.