Is Pokémon Go a good thing for kids?

Tina Bizaca, left, and Sarah Boutwell play the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokémon Go at the Capitol on Monday. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Tina Bizaca, left, and Sarah Boutwell play the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokémon Go at the Capitol on Monday. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman)

Pokémon Go, which was released last week for iPhone and Android, has been all the rage. All over Austin, you can find people, often kids, walking around, looking at their phones and then looking up and around them.

The app has you finding different Pokémons in real world setting. The map and screen on your phone is based on the real world you are looking at. Pokémons are hiding out in well-known spots in your city, such as historical landmarks or parks.

So, is this a good thing? It could be, says Dr. Shimona Thakrar, director of inpatient pediatrics and newborn nursery for Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, Round Rock. “The game is a happy medium,” she says. “It’s trying to be between kids wanting to play on iPads and kids being forced to go out and play and not have screen time.”

 Dr. Shimona Thakrar, director of inpatient pediatrics and newborn nursery for Baylor Scott & White Medical Center

Dr. Shimona Thakrar, director of inpatient pediatrics and newborn nursery for Baylor Scott & White Medical Center

Of course, the downside is that kids are still on screens, but if it encourages them to walk around, to connect to the world around them, to explore their city and even connect with their community of fellow Pokémon Go players, this could be a good thing.

Of course, parents need to monitor it for safety reasons. They should make sure that kids are paying attention to where they are walking and not just the screens. She says, she has a friend who is a doctor at an emergency room in New York City and he is seeing people come in with twisted ankles or injuries from being hit by cars because they were too busy playing the game and not watching where they were going.

You also want to take the usual precautions when you are out in public. Make sure you are in a well-lighted, safe place. Be aware of your surroundings and any suspicious characters. Make sure kids or adults are not playing alone. And, know that people are using the app for the wrong reasons — to commit a crime such as robbery.

Sarah Boutwell plays the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokémon Go at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, Monday July 11, 2016. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Sarah Boutwell plays the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokémon Go. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman)

Parents also need to make sure that kids aren’t trying to cheat the purpose of the game. For instance, driving slowly to find Pokémons rather than walking around to find them, defeats the purpose of getting more exercise. And it presents a great way to get to know more about your city, so don’t skip that park.

It also could be good for people with sedentary office jobs. The game reminds you to go find Pokémon if you’ve been sitting too long. It could actually be used as a healthy break from staring at the computer screen at work.

Of course, there’s also been concern about the loss of privacy and the amount of information to which the game has access.

For now, Thakrar remains on the fence about Pokémon Go. “It does get people walking, which is wonderful, but you still get people attached to their screens.”

And if you’re looking for ideas on how to break-free of the screens this summer (or at least lessen them), check out our blog on curbing screen usage.