“Excuse me!” I chirped as I speed walked through the casino toward the frog fountain. Head down, eyes focused on the phone, I frantically swiped my screen again and again and again. I was oblivious to the people around me, who I’m sure were staring at me as I exuberantly touted my achievement to myself.
“Got it!” “YES!” I cheered myself on as I swiped and walked, then swiped and stopped abruptly in front of a store. “Where is it?” I said aloud to no one in particular. “Not able to use the gym? Why not? What level am I?”
I must have sounded like a crazy person. Frustrated, I closed the app and put the phone in my purse, ashamed that I let myself get sucked into that world so easily. I’m not a big game player, but this one had me intrigued and obviously distracted by the augmented reality aspect.
I originally loaded the app because my kids were playing Pokemon GO. Actually, everyone’s kids were/are playing Pokemon GO. I needed to find out what this was all about as I do with many apps that they are in to. I can now Snapchat with the best of them, and I’m almost a filter pro.
As it turns out, it’s not just kids who are out and about searching for these little monsters. Adults of all ages and kinds are playing. Parents, college students, respectable older folk. All searching for strange little virtual creatures. They are battling each other in virtual gyms in front of stores and homes, parks, and even my bank branch. I have been trying to figure out how this addiction works. Hatching eggs, evolving the Pokemon, how to get more balls, Pokestops and more. All harmless fun. So far.
Until this point, I was worried about the kids getting hit by a car, running into to something or falling off a cliff because their phones were in their faces. Nothing new for a mom. But as an abolitionist and someone who is aware of the types of dangers to kids in terms of human trafficking, my “mama bear” alarm went off when I heard of something called a lure. Lures can be dropped in the Pokemon world by people who are trying to call Pokemon to a particular spot and, therefore, other players. My first lure I found in the airport. At the kids’ playground.
Sounds harmless? Perhaps. Kids like to play the game. Maybe it was dropped by another kid. Or maybe it was dropped by a pedophile. My mind went all ‘worst case scenario’, and I immediately started looking around. Everyone looks harmless enough. But isn’t that what they all say? My own children drop lures to bring Pokemon to them so they can keep collecting. But more Pokemon also bring more people. Could our children be unwittingly bringing unsavory characters to their doorstep? Definitely a possibility.
Now, I’m no expert in Pokemon, but I definitely can see where issues could arise around personal safety. Since the app was released, adults have trespassed, been robbed, had car accidents, and have even been murdered while playing the game. I do see the benefits of this game, as it has the potential to get sedentary kids and adults moving and interacting. But I see the dark side of this as well because of my involvement in the abolition movement. Based on what I have experienced and read about, I offer you the following tips to reduce the risk of your child (or you) becoming a victim of Pokemon accidents or foul play:
- Always play in groups. The more the merrier and the safer! I personally wouldn’t let any child under 14 play without adult supervision, but you know your child and their maturity level, so proceed with caution.
- Always stay on your own property or in public areas. No trespassing and good manners always come first when approaching a location that may be a Pokestop or gym or has a Pokemon you are trying to catch.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. No playing in dark alleys, creepy abandoned houses, and other locations that could be straight out of a horror film. There is no Pokemon in the world worth your safety or life.
- Always remember the ‘stranger danger’ rule. Never leave with or follow a stranger to a Pokestop or location where they say there is a rare Pokemon, or any Pokemon for that matter. Why would they be giving you a Pokemon? All stranger danger rules apply here: don’t take candy, puppies, toys, or Pokemon from strangers.
- Always have fun! I encourage all adults to make a Pokemon GO account and play as a family! It is safer, more fun, and makes some great memories. Except for the time I almost fell into the fountain trying to catch a Pokemon. Shhhh! Don’t tell my kids.