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Please Don't Let Pokémon Go Get Your Knickers In A Bunch

What, my husband and I wondered, is up with families these days? Why aren't they getting their kids outside? My knee-jerk reaction, perhaps unfairly, was to attribute this get-outdoors deficit to the internet and video games.
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Spending an unplugged week in the mountains recently was both awesome and upsetting. Awesome, because unplugging is good for the brain, and upsetting because the only under-18-year-old humans I encountered the entire time were my own.

What, my husband and I wondered, is up with families these days? Why aren't they getting their kids outside? My knee-jerk reaction, perhaps unfairly, was to attribute this get-outdoors deficit to the internet and video games.

That's why I was so excited to be greeted by the Pokémon Go buzz upon my return. Way to go Nintendo! Combining the nostalgia of your original video game with modern day location-based gaming functionality is absolutely brilliant. Additionally, by using Google Maps to take advantage of local geography, landmarks and players, you've not only managed to get gamers off the couch, you've sparked their interest in local environments and increased real social engagement. On top of that, you've achieved inter-generational participation by attracting users of all ages, and you're even approaching behemoth Twitter's active daily user numbers. What's not to love about Pokémon Go?

Evidently a lot, according to these headlines:

  • "Two Men Fall Off Cliff Near San Diego While Playing Pokémon Go"

  • "Pokémon Go Users Get Naked"
  • "'Pokémon Go' Sexual Predator Danger"
  • "Man Crashes Into Tree While Playing 'Pokémon Go'"
  • Geesh, talk rain on my outside parade.

    Fortunately, amidst all these negative reports I found a voice of reason. In "What to Love About Pokémon GO", Dr. Pamela Rutledge lays out a compelling case for the new app's benefits:

    It's no secret that social contact and physical activity are known to increase positive mood, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve immune systems. Also, people who go outside are exposed to sunlight and receive the benefits of Vitamin D. Not to mention feeling better about yourself.

    Sensibly, Rutledge advises that when it come to using Pokémon Go, "We have to take the responsibility for getting informed and understanding the trade-offs and implications."

    So with these wise words in mind, here are four things you can take responsibility for if you or your kids plan to play Pokémon Go:

    1. Remember That Distracted Gaming Is As Dangerous As Distracted Texting or Distracted Applying Makeup While Driving.

    If you or your children plan on leaving the safety of your home and your game console, be advised to look where you are going. Enough said.

    2. Posting Nudies Online While Playing Pokémon Go Or Using Pinterest Is a Bad Idea.

    CNN Money reports, "Some users are sharing nude photos of themselves -- with Pokémon graphics superimposed in strategic places -- or in the midst of sexual activities with Pokémon creatures in the frame." If you are your kids are tempted to do the same, remember that everything you post online stays online, one way or another, and can seriously wreck your online reputation. So keep it covered.

    3. You Can Know Where Your Children Go By Digitally Monitoring Their Whereabouts.

    CBS2 reports there are worries that sex offenders might use the app to lure children. So remember, whether your kids are playing Pokémon Go, texting Grandma from summer camp, or videotaping their latest skateboard moves at a friend's house, you can gain some peace-of-mind by monitoring their digital whereabouts, activities, or even by using "geo-fencing" to contain their wanderings. Surfie from Puresight is a good example of monitoring software that offers these bells and whistles and more.

    4. Be Mindful of Pokémon Go's Age Restrictions and Data Collection Policies.

    In "Pokémon Go: From Accidents to Stranger Danger, Tips to Keeping Kids Safe", Autumn Yates explains Pokémon Go's age restriction and data collection policy as follows:

    The minimum age to open a Pokémon Go account is 13 years old. If your child is under 13, a parent must go to the Pokémon Training Club (after signing in) and agree to their terms of use upon signing up. It's important that parents read the terms and conditions carefully because the application is set to collect personal data -- something parents might want to avoid. That information includes a player's birthday and email address... by notifying Pokémon Go that your player is under 13, parents have the right to refuse further collection of data. If an underage player does attempt to sidestep parental approval, Pokémon will delete the account.

    So there you have it; four sensible precautions for those who feel better carrying an umbrella when the sun is shining (or you've got kids you're trying to protect online).

    Now go ahead and get outside!