Published on 08/31/16

“Pokemon Go” brings families together and provides exercise

By Keishon Thomas

During the past several weeks, a new, technological craze has invaded our towns and cities. “Pokemon Go” has people wandering around aimlessly, looking at their phones.

The intent of the game, according to its developers at Niantic, Inc., is to get game players more active in the real world. The device shows animated Pokemon and other characters in real time in players’ real environments.

The object of the game is to catch Pokemon, small, animated characters that come in a variety of shapes and colors. Players “hunt” Pokemon by venturing out in the environment armed with Poke Balls to capture the Pokemon.

Along the way, players are directed to landmarks, called “PokeStops,” where they get more Poke Balls and other tools to catch Pokemon. PokeStops are everywhere: parks, churches, government buildings and even homeowners’ lawns.

Because “catching” those little characters can be distracting, players sometimes put themselves into dangerous situations as a result of being unaware of their surroundings.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension urges “Pokemon Go” players to be alert at all times. There have been reports of people walking into trees, traffic and even falling while playing the game.

Never trespass or jaywalk to capture Pokemon. They can appear anywhere, so always be safe and use common sense.

The animated characters can also appear on your phone while you are in the car or driving. Pokemon move to avoid capture, and driving a vehicle requires the driver’s full attention. Hunting Pokemon while driving is extremely dangerous, and drivers shouldn’t take part in “Pokemon Go” while operating a vehicle.

Children should never play the game alone, but playing along with children and capturing Pokemon while getting exercise can be rewarding.

To protect your phone, download the “Pokemon Go” app from a trusted source, like Apple’s app Store or Google Play. There have been reports of apps with malware that could harm your device. Monitor your data usage.

The game uses GPS and, therefore, lots of precious data. “Pokemon Go” won’t be so much fun when you receive an unexpectedly high phone bill. Players should also be mindful of in-app purchases. While the game itself is free, there are in-app purchases within the game. Tell children not to purchase anything online, including anything in “Pokemon Go,” unless they have permission.

Monitor the weather and stay hydrated. It’s hot outside and pop-up storms can hamper “hunting.” Avoid complications from heat, carry water, take breaks in shaded areas and wear sunscreen.

“Pokemon Go” is a great way to connect generations, get active and have fun. Remember to follow these tips from UGA Extension to be safe while you hunt for Pikachu.

Keishon Thomas is the University of Georgia Extension family and consumer sciences agent in Bibb County.

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