Despite praise received for getting children off of couches and into the sunlight, the augmented reality game "Pokemon Go" is far from being the latest health craze. In fact, the game poses a significant number of physical and mental dangers to its users.
"Pokemon Go" has achieved incredible success in a short time. According to statistics presented by Similar Web, the app has more Android downloads than the popular dating service "Tinder" and almost as many daily users as Twitter. Similar Web also reports that more than half of the users with the app installed on their smart devices are using the app every day.
Its popularity has brought it to the center of an international debate: Does "Pokemon Go" represent a healthy new trend for the future of video gaming?
Many claim that, compared to other video games that glue children to couches and large television screens for hours, "Pokemon Go" is a way to get video gamers on their feet and moving around. With pedometer and map features, the app does not function unless users actually get outside and move around.
Still, an app user will spend most of their time staring at a screen.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates children in the U.S. spend an average of seven hours per day in front of screens. Whether it is doing less homework on computers, watching fewer television shows or texting less often, children need time away from screens for proper eye and brain development.
The AAP warns parents to keep track of their children’s “media diets.” Video games can encourage violence, explicit or dangerous behavior, and "Pokemon Go" is no exception.
Many frightening reports of violent player interactions have taken over recent news headlines. Reports of the app leading to a sex trap or luring a teenage girl to a dead body top the list.
USA Today reports that four armed robbery suspects were arrested in Missouri just after the app had started to become popular. Using Pokestops, an element of the game that allows users to meet, the suspects allegedly lured players to a specific, out-of-sight location.
A New York City Police Commissioner told ABC News that he thinks the app is “stupid,” saying that “people are putting themselves at great risk being lured into certain neighborhoods that they have no knowledge of ... and subjecting themselves to potentially being victims of crime."
In an open letter to Nintendo UK, the country's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children CEO Peter Wanless pleaded with the app’s developers to enhance security related to the app. Going forward, Wanless, like many, wants to avoid hearing the app’s name in combination with the phrases “armed robbery,” “sex trap” or “tragedy.”
Children are not the only ones at risk while using the app. Adults have put themselves in danger by getting wrapped up in the virtual world of Pokemon.
Texas A&M university police tweeted on July 11 that a parked car was hit from behind because the driver was “too excited” to catch a Pokemon while driving. WBZ-TV reports that police in the Boston area have added “Don’t Pokemon and Drive” messages to electronic road signs for high-traffic areas and highways.
"Pokemon Go" is turning fans into zombies, roaming busy streets and unfamiliar, unmonitored areas with their eyes glued to their phones.
A fun workout class is an example of a safe, healthy trend. "Pokemon Go" is not.