Fort Worth, Texas,
17:02 PM

Pokémon Go, but be careful

Pediatricians encourage safety while playing

If you have children obsessed with Pokémon, and don’t we all, you may have been asked to download Pokémon Go for them.

After all since its release on July 6, Pokémon Go has become a sensation. It’s already on more than 51 percent of all Android phones in the United States, as well as the top free app and top grossing app in the U.S. on the iPhone App store. Oh and parents, users are spending an average of 43 minutes a day playing the game.

So what the heck is all this about?

Pokémon Go is an “augmented-reality game” that allows players to hunt for digital Pokémon on their smartphones. The creators of the game use GPS and an algorithm where players find and capture Pokémon characters at various locations.

So kids are outside exploring looking for the characters. That beats staying on the couch. But there’s also concern that comes with the exploratory nature of the game.

Kim Mangham, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Keller, says this game makes it difficult for kids to be aware of their surroundings.

“We know there are benefits to exercise and being in nature,” said Kim Mangham, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician. “I like that kids are getting outside with this game, but kids are at risk because they are looking at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings. They could trip or fall on a curb, branch or sidewalk. I worry about kids looking at the game near traffic or grownups or teens looking at the game while driving or riding on a bike.”

And then there’s that GPS aspect of the game that is a concern.

In Missouri, the O’Fallon Police Department sent out an alert of multiple armed robberies in the area. The suspects, who were caught, targeted their victims through Pokémon Go. The police believe the robbers used the app to locate people standing around in the middle of a parking lot or other secluded areas.

The Pokémon Company International and Niantic, the app’s makers, released a joint statement:

"We encourage all people playing Pokémon GO to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times."

Justin Smith, M.D., Cook Children’s medical advisor of digital health, says parents should talk to their kids about playing Pokémon Go and offers these helpful tips:

  1. Talk to your kids about stranger-danger and set limits on where your kids can go. Keep them in your neighborhood and walk with your younger children.
  2. Don’t play the game while riding your bike, hoverboard or skateboard. Make sure your older teens know they shouldn’t play and drive.
  3. Play with friends only.
  4. Don’t go into stranger’s yards or homes while trying to catch a Pokémon.
  5. Look up while playing the game. Watch where you are going.

“This is a game that seemingly everyone is playing right now. It would be great if parents participate with their own kids if they are going to allow them to play Pokémon Go,” Dr. Smith said. “It can be a fun way to get kids out exercising, but they also need to use caution.”

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