Admittedly, I’m not the hippest guy out there. In fact, my friend Owen nicknamed me “O8G,” which stands for “Only 80’s Guy,” since most of my pop-culture references stem from that decade (What? No one uses the term ‘Fresh’ anymore?).
However, even I have succumbed to the recent phenomenon known as Pokémon GO. That’s the “augmented reality” game you download onto your smartphone, then walk around hunting Pokémon, or “Pocket Monsters.” I’m already on Level 2 and haven’t even left my home while playing, unlike the many, many people you’ve likely seen walking around while looking at their phones going to places like PEMCO’s old offices.
Since its U.S. debut a week ago, the game has caught fire, with more people using it each day than other popular apps like Snapchat and Tinder. It’s so popular that Pokémon GO is on track to surpass Twitter in number of daily active users. Here at PEMCO, a number of my co-workers have regaled me with tales of last weekend’s exciting Pokémon hunt and the resulting battery drain it caused their phones.
But a phone without juice is just one of the many potential safety problems associated with the game. Already there have been news reports about Pokémon hunters finding dead bodies, getting robbed while tracking down the imaginary creatures and getting into car accidents because of DWP (Driving While Pokemoning).
While it’s okay to have fun and play a game that seemingly everyone is into (and maybe get some exercise at the same time – the game creators’ stated goal), it’s important to remember a few things to ensure you stay safe while trying to “catch them all”:
Keep an eye on the road - While driving, you may be tempted to check your phone to see if there are any Pokémon near you. Insurance expert tip: Don’t do it! It’s not worth risking your life or other people’s lives. If you absolutely must play in the car, do so as a passenger, not like what this guy did.
Keep an eye where you walk –Pedestrians can also be guilty of not paying attention to where they’re going, and for them, there’s nothing protecting them if they get hit by a car, bike, or another pedestrian.
Don’t forget your manners – Sure, snagging the rare Pokémon can be a cause for celebration, but it’s not worth it if you have to do it at a cemetery. It’s also kind of dangerous if you are lurking around a police department, and it can be problematic if you’re out late at night. Finally, many might consider it a social faux pas if you’re playing Pokémon GO in a museum. (If you think a location is inappropriate, here’s how to request it get removed.)
Keep an eye on your kids – Even though it’s free to download, Pokémon GO allows in-app purchases. Make sure your kids don’t buy things without your knowledge.
As with all things, the newness of this game is causing some major buzz and excitement. But just remember to use common sense, and don’t forget how to act in the real world or blur the lines before venturing in too deep into the world of Pokémon GO. Because as 1980’s icon Mr. T might say: “I pity the fool who gets hurt playing a game on their smartphone!”