The new Pokémon Go smartphone game has kids getting up on their feet and moving, and it has already been downloaded by tens of millions of young people in the past week. Through the use of map technology and local familiar landmarks, the app makes it seems as if the cartoon creatures have been dropped down into the real world all around the users’ neighborhoods and other locations.
KJ Dell’Antonia writes for The New York Times she tried out PokémonGo with her two 10-year-olds and found out right away that the game is not about sitting down. To find virtual Japanese characters, players have to get up and take to the streets.
“My 18-year-old and his friends walked and biked 25 plus miles in two days, outside, in the heat and rain,” said Lisa Romeo, a mother of two who lives in Cedar Grove, N.J.
A Salem, Mass. parent declared that during his family’s Maine vacation, his 11-year-old reported that he had walked 30 miles in three days.
Another plus for the game is that kids who are playing want their siblings and parents to join them, and the hunt can sometimes result in meeting other players at Pokéstops, leading to unexpected social events.
Yext (a location data management platform) Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Rohrs, who is also a father of two, says that the game has provided something that the culture needed. The surprise use of the smartphone as an encouragement to exercise and be with others is unique and delightful, adds Rohrs.
The average US child spends more time in front of a screen than at school, and their parents are just as bad. A recent study found that 70% of young people under the age of 18 said their parents spent too much time engrossed on their phones.
“I’m wary of promises that more technology is the answer to problems caused by the overuse of technology,” said Richard Freed, a psychologist and author of “Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age.”
In the past, games like the Wii system were touted as the technology that could potentially bring families together or get kids to be more active, but ultimately that did not happen on a large scale, adds Freed.
The Pokémon Company is 32% owned by Nintendo and Niantic, Inc., a spinoff from Google parent company Alphabet, Inc.
Already, Pokémon Go users are spending more time on the app than users of Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram. Shares in the Nintendo company went up 25% in Tokyo trading on Monday.
But the app has come with problems. A Wyoming teen who was playing the game found a dead body, and armed robbers coaxed eight players to a location through the use of one of the Pokéstops, which led the O’Fallon, Missouri police department to post the following message:
“Many of you have heard of Pokémon Go, but for those who have not, it is a type of Geo Caching game where you find and capture Pokémon characters at various locations. If you use this app (or other similar apps) or have children that do we ask you to please use caution when alerting strangers of your future location.”
These incidents prompted the Pokémon Co. and Niantic to release a warning to all people playing the Pokémon game to be aware of their surroundings, to stay with their friends, and to remain safe and alert, according to Maria LaMagna for the MarketWatch.
Pokémon Go has its pros and cons — it does encourage kids to get exercise, but it still involves attachment to a screen. And the video game uses the participants’ GPS to track their locations so the users can find nearby Pokémon and Pokéstops.
Kimberly Richards, writing for Romper, says that PokémonGo engages the user in a way that can distract young ones from paying attention to where they are and what they are doing, especially when they are outside.
A Buzzfeed article explains that PokémonGo collects information about users’ locations, how long they stayed there, who was with them, and more. It can also access users’ USB storage, contacts, network connections, along with other data. And a USA Today article pointed out that if the user logs in to his or her Google account, the app can see his or her entire Google Account — a setting that has since been adjusted and clarified. Shannan Younger of ChicagoNow writes that the creators state that the app “erroneously” asked for full access to Google accounts. Pokémon Go only obtains fundamental Google profile data.
Users must be 13 or have parental permission to download the app.