Combating the Screen Addiction Epidemic

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Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

I first began to notice screen addiction about half a year ago, when I saw my mom struggling to get my younger sister’s friends to interact with each other on playdates. It seemed everyone paid more attention to their screens than to each other. It really bothered my mom. More importantly, it bothered my sister Lily, and it made me want to do something about it. I decided to take a stab at a solution, and built my first Detach prototype for my ceramics final project. It was a crude but functioning product that resembled a charging station. As I built it, I reflected on what an immense issue screen addiction had become, and decided I had to build something with mass appeal -- something that could combat the epidemic in every house in America.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

I am trying to solve the problem of screen addiction. Though mobile technology has benefited our world immensely, social media addiction plagues our society. This is true for all, but especially for teens. It is critical that we find a solution for this problem because mobile devices are amazing tools, and yet we are degrading our lives and abandoning genuine relationships in favor of app-addiction.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Detach is hardware that will gamify detachment from devices, primarily phones. Detach units will be handsomely crafted, high quality products that resemble multi-phone charging stations, but they will do much more. They will motivate groups of users to plug in -- and leave behind -- their devices for long periods of time. Motivational techniques will include visual and aural stimulation, competition, reward systems and accelerating benefits. Detach units will be networked, enabling competition between households, schools and organizations. Corporate sponsors will provide rewards for families or groups that have most authentically detached from their devices.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When Jonah first plugs his phone into one of the slots in the Detach cube, he will instantly be gratified by lights, motion and sound all emanating from the device. This triggers feelings of satisfaction, security and positivity in Jonah. He walks away confident in the knowledge that he will rack up revolutions on the cube's counter. He will encourage his friends, siblings, and parents to detach as well, since the cube’s counter really flies when many phones are plugged in at once. When the count goes up, so do his rewards -- whether they are social, ephemeral or physical. Detaching from his phone becomes natural for Jonah. At first it was about the rewards, but now it is because he has a new, healthier relationship with his device.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

I have spent countless hours searching for a solution to screen addiction and there are no products as effective as Detach. Detach is a smart physical product. It is attractive, it is networked and it is rewarding to use. Detach is simple and motivational and uses all the best aspects of social pressure to encourage participation. There is nothing else out there that resembles the simple genius of Detach.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have a Detach Basket in the front entry of our home. It’s nothing like the real prototype and lacks all of the motivational elements, but it functions in a similar way; the rule of the house is that everyone -- kids and adults alike -- must put their phones in the basket as soon as they enter the house. Remarkably, this has created a significant difference in the way people interact in our home. No longer are my sister’s friends glued to their phones when “playing” at our house. Instead, they are actually playing. This little step -- eliminating the distraction of screens -- produces a great result: allowing us to bond authentically.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We have early prototypes and many drawings of the Detach device, but we need to build a simple, attractive design for the hardware. Even more importantly, we need to put an enormous amount of effort into building the games and rewards systems that will motivate users to engage with their Detach devices. We also need to build the connectivity and networking of the Detach cubes, and what that would look like from both hardware and software perspectives. Beyond design, we have manufacturing to be concerned about. We also need to define the market entry points, and identify the influencers that will popularize the concept and the product. In addition, we’ll need to expand our team beyond the two of us who are dedicated to the project right now.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

We need all the help we can get for this idea to take flight. We need talented people: designers and craftsmen, technologists, networking specialists, app builders, marketers, and a finance jock. We need capital to pay these people, and to produce our first lot of inventory. We are also looking for mentors -- entrepreneurs with many failures under their belts to help guide us on our journey. Of course, many difficulties will arise and having quality people to turn to for support will be tremendously helpful.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

I am a passionate entrepreneur driven to make change, but to be honest, I am also a clueless teenager. That is why this opportunity is so important for me. I need the support of a talented and passionate group of changemakers to make Detach a reality. I will commit myself to my fellow changemakers as we take on the challenge of making the world a better place.

How did you hear about this challenge?

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Micah Martinez

I think this topic is important because the next generation needs to realize and evaluate themselves at how much they rely and depend on their technological devices.

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