Pokemon Go is a game that young people with mobile devices play while moving around town. If you have teen drivers, you need to jump on this right now.
Pokemon Go is the next hugely popular mobile app. The basic idea is that the phone user moves around town and finds little monsters on the mobile app’s map. The user then moves to the area and it throws imaginary balls at the imaginary monsters to sort of catch them. I’m sure that description would sound like my explanation of Dungeons and Dragons to my parents back in the day, but I’m not writing this story for teens. If your kids live in the city, walking is the best way for them to play. However, if you live in the ‘burbs, like the majority of the country’s population, this game is played by car much more effectively.
Distracted driving is over-hyped by the media on a daily basis. NHTSA breaks down the causes of serious traffic accidents and drunk drivers still cause a third of those followed by people driving way too fast. The remaining third are a mishmash of motorcycle, bus and truck crashes, many of which involve pedestrians. The numbers don’t show distracted driving as the threat it is perceived to be. That said, it is a serious issue and getting worse, and this new Pokemon Go game targets young people of driving age.
The problem for parents of young teens is that the kids who have your car keys want to go find these little Pokemon monsters. Having driven around an hour or so with my 14-year old in the car last night, it is obvious that being a driver while playing effectively is difficult, but not impossible. My son in the passenger seat could see the monsters around town and he knew how to vector me to them. When we would get into their area he would play the game and score “combat tower points.” If you have any doubts this is a game that requires quick mobility note that the official video of the game shows a player riding a bicycle around town playing (sans helmet).
My 17-year-old is a camp councilor and more tuned into this stuff than most teens his age. He plays Pokemon and related things with the kids at camp and is pretty much the local expert. He was right out front with this new game and was in the car he uses (mine) with his brother as soon as it was available. The main worry is that kids driving solo will be too tempted to pass up a juicy monster. He told me when he woke up today “There is a Jiggley Puff over on Main Street! Oh look, there is a Charmander near Walgreens on the way. I gotta go!”
Having spoken to him about this, it is apparent that the kids will plan to drive to the spot and then pull over to get the monster. That will be their best intention. Then they will do it stoplights. Then while moving.
It would seem easy for the app makers, Niantic Labs, to monitor the speed a player is travelling and then disable the app if the game finds players are moving around at vehicle speeds. Let’s hope for that update and talk to our kids now. This parent just bought that in-vehicle smartphone blocking device he reported on a while back.
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