I love the outdoors. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I run on the coldest days of Canadian winter and in the ridiculous heat of the summer. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my kids find their way outdoors, even if it means wandering around aimlessly while they are kicking around soccer balls at the park or shooting hoops on the street, because they would rather be playing outside. And I think it is great when my friends and co-workers begin a fitness regime that takes them for walks or runs into the trails.
When the Pokémon Go app came out, you would think that I would have been excited about that. After all, it is designed to get people off the couch and exploring the world. Last week, kids came to school, tired but proud of how much they walked the day before while looking for Pokémon. “If it gets kids outside and moving,” many friends said, “it’s a good thing.” In that sense, it is. The intention is to walk and hunt for Pokémon while paying attention to your surroundings. Instead, within a week of its launch, the media released numerous stories surrounding accidents and harm that are a result of the app’s users not being careful.
Technology is to be respected and using it while mobile does not give it the respect it deserves. In the same way that it is illegal to text and drive, kids (and adults) need to use sound judgement when playing the game. I, personally, have already seen 3 Pokémon incidents: (1) a grade 8 student, who was walking down the hall at school while looking for eggs to hatch, walked into another student, dropped his phone and watched the screen crack; (2) a neighbour held his phone while riding his bike, dropped it and lost control of his bike when he went up a bump on the curb that he didn’t see, admittedly because he was looking for Pokémon; (3) while running yesterday, I saw a group of 10 boys without helmets on their bikes, eyes on screens and calling out Pokémon hunting-like calls, while riding oblivious to traffic on a busy road: stupidity at its best.
But kids aren’t stupid. They are smart enough to find what they seem to believe are “safer” and “more efficient” ways to catch Pokémon, but they still aren’t respecting the technology in their hands. Today, one mom told me that she saw one boy riding with his phone taped to his handlebars. Another described a scene that takes the search for Pokémon and egg-hatching to a new level; she saw a group of 9 year olds at the park on motorized scooters, going crazy fast without helmets, and obviously looking for Pokémon. It has no longer become a “whatever it takes to get kids outside” game, but a “whatever it takes to collect Pokémon.” My own 15 year told me about the hack that a group of 14 year olds shared with him, a way to change your settings so that you can sit on your couch and capture Pokémon without even having to go outdoors. Perhaps this group of kids actually has the right idea. Yes, it is a hack and we all know that hacking is wrong. But these kids aren’t wandering streets, unaware of what is going on around them, and they are playing from the safety of their own homes.
What this game really needs is a common sense upload, perhaps one which can hatch from a Pokémon egg because it would be priceless. Until the developers come up with one, my kids aren’t really interested in playing and I’ll be following them around aimlessly while they chase soccer balls and shoot hoops.