Breaking the Screen Addiction Among College Students: Experimental Evidence of the Impact of Commitment Device on Academic Performance

Last registered on December 20, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Breaking the Screen Addiction Among College Students: Experimental Evidence of the Impact of Commitment Device on Academic Performance
Initial registration date
December 13, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 20, 2023, 1:57 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Bryant University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Bryant University

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Studies have shown that excessive screen time is negatively associated with physical and mental health and academic performance. While most individuals have access to soft commitment devices designed to help regulate screen time, these tools are often underutilized. This study investigates the effect of a nudge on the adoption of commitment devices and subsequent changes in screen behavior, academic performance, and overall wellbeing of college students. We implement a randomized controlled trial at an undergraduate institution where a randomly selected group of first-year students receive emails that encourage the use of soft commitment devices. Using a combination of survey and administrative data, the study will assess the impact of the intervention. This study has the potential to inform policy by providing empirical evidence on the role of commitment devices and nudges in enhancing student outcomes in the digital age.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Sardar, Ferdous and Amanda Spielman. 2023. "Breaking the Screen Addiction Among College Students: Experimental Evidence of the Impact of Commitment Device on Academic Performance." AEA RCT Registry. December 20.
Experimental Details


Email encouraging students to use soft commitment device.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome variables of this study are:
1. Adoption of a Commitment Device: whether they set a limit on their phone using app like “screen time”.
2. Academic Performance: Term GPA for Fall 2023.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
The secondary outcome variables of this study are:
1. Overuse of phone and social media: We will construct this variable by dividing their self-reported phone and social media usage with their self-reported ideal phone and social media usage.
2. Self-reported daily allocation of time for sleep, study, phone, social media, mental health etc.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The intervention of this study involves sending randomly selected students emails encouraging the use of soft commitment devices such as Apple’s screen time application to control smartphone use.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer using Stata
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
No cluster
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms

Control: 459
Treatment: 564
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Bryant University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials