Bored Student Looking At Phone
A very bored student in a very boring class in a very boring classroom. Getty

Universities in the US are using a new app and the promise of free food and shop discounts to help curb mobile phone usage in classes.

It's tough enough to pry a grown adult from their mobile phone in this post-Candy Crush world, and that struggle goes double for students. There are rules against the use of phones in most school classrooms of course, but naturally they're ignored.

The solution it seems it to turn not using your phone into a game with rewards, because the gamification of all facets of life is a trend that is well and truly here to stay.

Pocket Points is an iOS app which can recognise when it is being used in a particular school's campus classrooms during class time. When active it tracks the amount of time a phone has been locked and turns that time into points.

One point is earned every twenty minutes, with more points available the more students using the app during class. Students are asked to boot the app at the start of class, then check how they've done at the end. The less they check their phones the more points they get, points which are then turned into free food and discounts at local shops.

Fifteen points gets you two free cookies for example.

The app was developed by California State University, Chico, student Rob Richardson

"I look around in my class of 100 people or so and I see half the kids with their heads down and our initial name was going to be 'heads up' or something like that," Richardson told Action News Now. "It hurts you as a student if you're not paying attention, and also for a professor if they see their students not engaged in their conversations."

Richardson worked with his friend Emily Turner – a student at Penn State – to bring the app to her school, where it has been successfully implemented.

The app only currently works at California State and Penn State, but hopes to roll out at other schools in the future.

Exclusive cheat code: Bring your tablet to class too.