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Pokemon Go: Healthy Or Deadly?

Whether you are a fan of Pokémon Go or not, no one can ignore its recent surge into global consciousness. The question is if this game is a good idea for your teen or not.

Unless you have been deep-sea diving on Jupiter with your fingers in your ears, you will have heard the phrase “Pokémon Go” recently.

In just a matter of days, the app became the biggest mobile game that the United States has ever seen, finally eclipsing Candy Crush Saga.

As with any fad, popular news outlets are either praising Pokémon Go or lambasting it as the next plague.

In case you have only just returned from Jupiter, here is an explanation of this new technological phenomenon:

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play smartphone game, based on the Japanese designed Pokémon

franchise. The game encourages you to trap, battle, and train virtual creatures, called

Pokémon. Its premise is not dissimilar to a number of other games, but it has one major

difference - it is linked to the real world. Using the mobile device’s GPS capability, players are

required to physically walk around their local area, hunting out hidden characters within real

world maps.

Although the Pokémon Go concept itself is relatively standard, the game has the unusual ability to get gamers up and out of their chairs and moving around outdoors.

The effect of any app, game, or new technology on a population is likely to be minimal. That is, unless its uptake is huge; with Pokémon Go, the uptake certainly is huge. As of July 12, 2016, Pokémon Go boasted around 21 million active users. With so many players, the game has the genuine ability to influence public health. The question is, will Pokémon Go yield positive health outcomes, or is it a potential death trap?

Pokémon Go: The good

First and foremost, Pokémon Go is getting younger (and older) people out of the house and moving around. This offers a huge potential benefit for the health of the population.

  • Researchers have demonstrated time and time again that a sedentary lifestyle (sitting still for most of the day) is bad for health.

  • A study published in 2012, for instance, concluded: “Sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.”

  • Another, published in 2015, found that long periods of sitting, regardless of fitness level, had a negative impact on health. So even if you exercise regularly, sitting is still bad for you while you do it.

  • In this way, Pokémon Go could have a very positive impact, and help make your teen more motivated to get out and get moving regularly.

Other than the cardiovascular benefits of a swift stroll, walking outside also has a positive impact on mental health.

  • An article from the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity in 2012, concluded that, although evidence is limited, “walking has a large effect on reducing the symptoms of depression."

  • Also, other Pokémon Go players have reported the benefits of interacting with people they would have never otherwise spoken to. Modern society has a tendency to minimize the amount of human contact we have. This game could then help your teen make new friends and meaningful connections in their immediate community.

Pokémon Go: The bad

The media has been quick to report on the negative consequences of playing Pokémon Go.

Some of the stories are, no doubt, true. Others are probably exaggerated or beyond the scope of this article (armed robbery, kidnapping, and pedophilia traps, for instance), but can still heighten parent's concern.

The main, overarching health concern surrounding Pokémon Go is simple: people are not paying attention to where they are going. Injuries are rife and, as the game grows ever more popular, this is likely to worsen.

  • Already, official warnings have been released by the New York City Transit (NYCT) Authority, New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles and Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the NYCT Subway, the New South Wales police in Australia, and the Arizona, Sarasota, and Virginia police departments; the list goes on.

  • Even more worrying are reports of people being caught playing the game while driving. That is a health concern that needs no explanation whatsoever. If your teen is interested in playing Pokémon Go, make sure you discuss the dangers of cell phone use and driving, as well as your expectations for them.

  • Another topic to discuss is how to stay aware of their surroundings when walking and playing, especially at crosswalks.

To summarize, there may be some genuine health benefits to playing Pokémon Go; alleviating loneliness and depression, and reducing the chances of premature death are all valiant outcomes. The only real downside, as far as health is concerned, is that players are not paying enough attention to their surroundings.

If your teen is interested in playing, talk with them about your concerns. Decide for yourself if you would like to encourage them to be physically active through the game, and set expectations and limits for playing if you decide you are for the app. Remember, if you talk, they will listen!

Written by Tim Newman. Click HERE to read the original article from The Huffington Post.