Community Education Council 31 President and former NYPD Lieutenant Michael Reilly weighs in on the new app sweeping the nation.
You may have seen adults and kids alike moving aimlessly around our parks and other public places., looking down at their smart phones. Many of them are probably playing the new interactive game known as Pokemon Go.
The game places virtual Pokemon in public locations using geo-locations, which are map coordinates that can be tracked like Google maps. The Pokemon are strategically placed in Parks, amusement attractions, museums, and other prominent public locations. The object of the game is to find as many Pokemon as possible and catch them by pointing your smart phone at them.
While on our recent family vacation to Orlando, Florida, my son was engulfed in the Pokemon Go craze. He was circling our resort and met a young worker playing Pokemon Go in between transporting guests in his golf cart. The pair joined forces and traveled the complex searching for the characters. While visiting Universal Studios, we discovered there were several hundred Pokemon across the park. We even observed a Universal Studios crew member playing as we left the park at closing.
So when you see kids and adults walking with their heads down glued to their phones, they are probably searching the area for the illustrious little virtual critters. The game was introduced in the United States in early July and has spread like wildfire. On a positive note it has moved gamers from the couch to the outdoors, logging multiple miles while walking to find Pokemon.
Although it is getting people moving, it does present some danger. There have been several reports of people falling in ditches, suffering foot and leg injuries as they walk around searching for the Pokemon. There have even been instances of people playing while bicycling and driving. Unfortunately, this has the potential to make our roads even more dangerous.
As we recently read about in Missouri, colliding virtual gaming with the real world can provide a prime opportunity for the criminal element. Some teenagers have used the opportunity to commit robberies at gunpoint on unsuspecting victims arriving at desolate public places to retrieve the Pokemon.
Sadly, this new game may open a new opportunity for pedophiles to seek out young victims. There is a segment of the game that allows a player to create a “Gym” which places several Pokemon in the same location to lure participants to the location with hopes of catching a large number of Pokemon at once.
The internet and social media have presented many challenges for parents. We must continually remind our children not to agree to meet strangers they interact with online because they may not be who they appear to be. This new real world interactive gaming is no different. We must remain vigilant and discuss the potential hazards.
Talk to your kids and remind them to always be aware of their surroundings, especially when playing the virtual treasure hunt game.
By Community Education Council 31 President Michael Reilly.