Screenless – encouraging mindful phone usage
To complete my MS in Human Centered Design & Engineering degree from University of Washington, I took on a Research and Design capstone project revolving around the Internet of Things that is sponsored by HTC. Our group was immediately and unanimously attracted to the idea of working with children, as all four of us have academic background, volunteer experience, and personal interest in the domain. We also saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the current market, since although IoT as whole has become more prevalent, solutions designed for children (as opposed to for parents to better manage their children) are still relatively rare. Children is a challenging user group to design for as they are a moving target as each child goes thru varying developmental growth and learning process. Also, children in the United States are well protected by the laws.
Prolonged screen time affects the quality of social interactions.
With the rapid proliferation of mobile devices and expanding reach of wireless networks, the modern child now spends an average of 8-11 hours a day in front of various screened media. While this phenomenon may well be an inevitable shift as society moves into a hyperconnected state, research shows that today’s standard amount of screen time correlates to clear detriments in children’s emotional intelligence.
Children of 10 to 13 years old.
After extensive brainstorming around the research question, we set out to investigate the motivations behind screen use during social, face-to-face contexts. However, our main unknowns when setting up the problem space were what ages to focus on and whether this was a worthwhile topic to study. Thankfully, our interviews with subject matter experts Professor Julie Kientz and PhD candidate Alexis Hiniker, who have both researched technology usage in families with younger children, supported the need to work with 10 to 13 year olds, as there was a general lack of research in this area with this specific age group.
How can we prevent Generation Z from growing up together, but alone?
We did a deep dive research on the problem, part of which we conducted two focus group sessions with five 10- to 13-year-olds each to find out their motivations, pain points, and needs. In our sample of ten participants, the two 13 years old girls were both most reflective and critical of their habits and expressed the strongest desire to cut back on usage. Incidentally, they were also the ones who consistently reached for their individual devices first during free time, engaging only in solitary activities and rarely interacting.
Kids are self-aware of unhealthy device habits and actively want to reduce usage.
We were surprised by participants’ cognizance and judgement of their own and others’ device habits. Despite varying levels of actual usage, children across the board expressed the desire to decrease the amount of time they spend interacting with screens on a daily basis.
Self-policing works better than imposed rules.
The solution for behavior change needs to target inner motivation, as parent-imposed rules are rarely enforced and begrudgingly followed. Through participant answers, we learned that parents are not setting a positive example for regulated technology use.
“Contagious” use & addictive habits.
We observed that in social settings, when one person takes out their phone, others soon follow – a chain effect of usage. At the same time, users are becoming increasingly addicted to checking behaviors that reward them with a temporary “high” every time a notification arrives.
USER REQUIREMENT FOR DESIGN
The solution we designed centers around the needs of our primary persona – a 13-year-old girl who is motivated to reduce her poor screen habits. As such, we kept a series of requirements at the forefront of our considerations.
Easy to learn
The solution should have little to no barrier to entry, with clear physical affordances and instructions if necessary.
Fun to use
The solution should be delightful so that the user will be motivated to continue using it over an extended period.
The solution should not introduce more “stuff” for the user to carry around and keep track of.
The solution should not introduce a screened component since that’s the problem it’s trying to tackle.
The solution should avoid tracking and displaying performance over long periods of time so that users are not discouraged by a downward trend.
The solution should be universally pleasing to look at and should attract others’ attention in a positive way.
Not too unwieldy
The solution should only slightly hinder phone unlocking and should not present a major source of frustration for users.
The solution should not affect the user when she uses her phone’s functions.
Timeline. January – mid March 2016.
The issue of screen time has only surfaced in recent years, not many in depth studies has been done to understand the extensive effects yet.
2 Subject matter expert interviews
12 Article literature review
4 Product competitive analysis
2 Focus groups (five participants each)
1 Online parent survey
8 Hours of field observations
1 Primary persona
1 Secondary persona
2 Hours of stickynote brainstorming
4 Hours using Design with Intent toolkit
5 Rough storyboards
3 Refined storyboards
4 Hours defining interactions
6 Colors of TPU gel phone cases
1 Sheet of multicolor rhinestone stickers
1 Pack of small clear furniture bumpers
1 Wizard-of-Oz interaction video
1 Feature list
4 Participant focus group
15 Minute concept test
15 Minute prototype evaluation
1 Hour structured Q+A
1 Interaction video review
1 Revised feature list
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