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August 28, 2013

New app quizzes kids before smartphone use

CHAZY, N.Y. — Erick Vreeken's two teenage children aren't unlike most smartphone-carrying students across the country. Prying them away from their phones long enough to speak a few sentences is a challenge.

But when Vreeken noticed phone use was interfering with his children’s grades, the 40-year-old from Chazy, N.Y., decided to do something about it. Instead of keeping his kids away from their phones, Vreeken decided to turn his children's cellphone use into a learning experience.

"In an age of digital distraction, the key is to get something out of it," Vreeken said.

Vreeken has 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.

He is using crowd-sourced online fundraising to pay for the app, which he hopes to launch for the public on Sept. 2.

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.

Until 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 pre-designated 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?"

In addition to helping kids learn, Study Lock will users incentives such as prizes. Vreeken hopes to gather funds to purchase gifts such as phones, laptops and even college scholarships.

Vreeken also wants to give app users the ability to track their success. Parents can get emails on their children's performance, including grades for each subject.

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. That fundraiser ends Aug. 30.

Details for this story were reported by The Press Republican in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

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