There is an old saying that goes, “what is old, is new again”.
For parents and gamers, this adage couldn’t be any more true today than when it was first uttered decades ago. Whether you or your children grew up collecting Pokémon trading cards or feverishly trained digital versions on your DS or Gameboy, chances are you have heard about the new Pokémon GO craze. Suddenly, people of all ages and demographics are digitally capturing, evolving, and battling Pokémon in a free augmented reality app that can be downloaded onto almost any phone or device.
Over 21 million users have logged onto this app, with numbers expected to continue rising as the game launches in more countries. Currently, this game has more users logging on than the social media giant, Twitter, and has already outranked the peak number of players for Candy Crush, one of the most popular games of all time. Within a matter of months, this game has jolted our love for all things Pokémon back into hyperdrive.
At first glance, this app appears to be another game using GPS technology, but as more players trade in their Pokémon cards in favor of the digital version we are starting to notice some amazing side effects. Suddenly, players are heading outside to capture new Pokémon, hatch eggs, or visit the local Pokéstop. While the newfound excitement to exercise is an obvious benefit, the app is also influencing our communities in some pretty amazing ways.
Pokémon players are meeting new people and exploring different areas of their neighborhoods. Users are mingling, bonding, and working together in levels that haven’t been seen before. Players who typically have a hard time getting out of their comfort zones to meet new people, suffering from the likes of anxiety, autism, depression, PTSD, or other special needs, are finding that Pokémon GO is motivating them to interact with new people. This increased mobility and interaction is revitalizing a sense of community and camaraderie among Pokémon players .
However, the mobility of this app has also led to the development of some dangerous scenarios.
The distractive nature of this app has led some users to the emergency room, because of injuries and accidents that occurred while playing. To add to these safety concerns, authorities are also cautioning players to be on the lookout for pedophiles and criminals who are using this game to lure in new targets.
Thankfully, listed below are strategies to help users safely play Pokémon GO:
Play with friends, family, or in groups. Avoid playing alone, because lone trainers will not have the added security of a buddy nearby to alert help if needed.
Wear highly visible clothing and avoid playing after dark. Dress so drivers and other pedestrians will be able to see you easily, even at dusk. Most deadly pedestrian accidents happen during twilight, so be extra cautious or set a curfew to be home before dark.
Always be polite. Use good manners, respect other people’s property, and be courteous.
Make sure to inform others of your routes or plans. For added security, check in every so often with a text or phone call.
Map out acceptable routes a child can follow while playing Pokémon GO. We all know that there are certain areas, often within blocks of each other, that are not safe for young children to be without adults.
Always carry an emergency battery charger for your phone. This game is notorious for draining batteries in a short amount of time. Carry an extra battery or charging station so you don’t get stranded without a way to call for help in an emergency.
Carry your phone in a pocket while walking. This will reduce the temptation to look down at the screen while walking and could prevent you from stumbling into an injury.
Be aware of our surroundings. Carrying your phone in a pocket is a great start, but we should pay close attention to other players, traffic, weather conditions, and avoid secluded areas.
Stop in safe areas before playing. Find a location on a sidewalk or at a park, away from traffic, before trying to play. Be mindful of roads and intersections.
Never play while operating a moving vehicle. Texting and driving is bad, so is playing Pokémon GO. Stop the car in a safe location, take public transportation, or find a designated driver if you must play while in a vehicle.