Pokémon Go: Raising anxiety levels of parents, motorists and the police

pokemonOkay, I’ll admit it… when I first heard about Pokémon Go, I thought it was supercool. Anything to get the kids out of their rooms for a fresh breath of air and some activity, right?

I also have fond memories of Ash, Misty, Brock, Pikachu, Snorlax, Jiggly Puff, etc. having watched the television serial with my kids while they were growing up. Like the original hosts of Top Gear, the Pokémon gang is virtually like family, we’ve spent so much time with them.

(If you haven’t heard of Nintendo’s new ridiculously-popular game that’s breaking downloading records, it’s time to dig yourself out of the black hole you’re in and catch up.)

As I listened to my 16-year-old describe the new game with stars in his eyes, I marvelled at the technological genius that used the GPS and mapping system in mobile phones to blend the physical world with virtual objects.
“My school is a hub, and the park at the side of our house is a Pokémon gym,” my son blabbered on. I couldn’t help but get caught up in his excitement of finding Pokémon in our neighbourhood. He was over the moon and I was almost there too. There was just one complaint he had—no data on his phone to catch Pokémon outside a wireless zone. And, just for a minute, I considered adding to his plan.

Now however, I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I didn’t give in to that weak moment.

Lack of data coverage will keep his head out of the game when he’s on the streets. With his uncanny ability to walk into things and trip over himself in normal circumstances, indulging in the new rage while walking or biking could have dangerous consequences. And he won’t be a nuisance to other people…

According to the media reports Pokémon Go is becoming more of a bother than a positive exercise and get-to-know-your-neighbourhood tool. The game that was created to get kids off their couches is causing trouble on the streets and in many places of public interests. Even adults who use it seem to have lost all common sense.

Numerous reports have surfaced of kids and adults darting (or cycling) across the street and into neighborhood hot spots to snag a Pokémon or throw Pokeballs at Pikachu on the road.

Stories of fender-benders, cycling accidents, skateboard falls, bruised knees, twisted ankles, sore feet (from all that walking) and even sun burns from long hours outdoors are also being shared on social media by the users themselves.

Being so engrossed in catching ‘em all, little attention is being paid to surroundings, personal safety or privacy. This seems to something that Nintendo didn’t think about all.

Some gamers are also up to no good. Missouri police reported that four teens lured 8 or 9 victims to a remote spot just outside of St. Louis to rob them.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland were designated Pokéstops and had gamers running all over the hallowed grounds. Management has asked users to refrain from playing on their premises and are currently working to have the sites removed from the game. A Dutch hospital is doing the same.

Even the police have not been spared. A Vancouver police station on Cambie Street found a civilian trying to find a Pokémon on their premises and have issued safety warnings to all users.

The Toronto Zoo has had its share of troubles too and took to Twitter asking visitors not to cross barriers into enclosures while playing the game.

In addition to fixing technical glitches, the Ninendo will also have to rethink safety and privacy issues.

With market reports predicting that Pokémon Go will likely become more popular than snap chat, the futuristic augmented-reality game is here to stay. All we can do is educate our kids (and adults) about safe and respectful use on roads and in public places.

I must confess I’m dying to try it, and hopefully I’ll be a responsible player!

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