Indonesian university student Tyas Sisianindita spends almost eight hours a day on the social networks with friends.
“I’ve realized I’m an addict,” she said, admitting that she’s been checking her cell phone continuously since she wakes up and even when she’s in class. “At night, when I can’t sleep, I can be on my phone for up to five hours.
A group of his colleagues at the University of Indonesia, led by technology developer Irfan Budi Satria, has spent three months working on a portable device that can help Internet users like Sisianindita reduce the time they spend on their phones.
Called “Nettox”, in reference to “internet detox techniques”, the device is worn on the wrist and contains a pulse sensor that measures oxygen levels in hemoglobin and heart rate variability (HRV).
Several studies have shown that prolonged use of the mobile phone has a specific effect of reducing HRV. The Nettox device emits a sound when HRV and blood oxygen levels fall below a range, reminding the user to stay away from their phone.
In the case of people between the ages of 18 and 25, HRV should ideally remain above 60, according to the American Psychological Association, Satria said. In a recent study, Sisianindita’s HRV levels were at 44.
Internet addiction is a growing social problem in Indonesia. In October, two teenagers received treatment for their dependence on internet gambling, local media reported.
“Children need to be taught to be more active and take part in extracurricular practices,” said psychologist Kasandra Putranto.
Satria’s team is working to personalize Nettox and improve its accuracy, as HRV measurements can vary depending on people’s body structure, gender and health conditions.
The goal is to apply for a patent for the invention in conjunction with the university next year.
However, Satria says Nettox targets people who have already invested in changing their behaviors.