Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. It's the most downloaded app ever, and it's got millions of users walking around the streets of their cities, with their eyes glued to their phones. The fact that it's getting people off their couch and exploring their neighborhoods is fantastic, but there's a little more to it than that. Walking down the street has become a major challenge as you navigate the hundreds of zombies glued to their phones, and despite warnings from the game makers themselves people are increasingly putting themselves in danger while using this app. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the game and I've been playing it a little too much myself, but you've got to use your common sense people. You need to take care and stay safe. Today we're going to cover the biggest risks of the game, and what you can do to protect yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsyG9txQg8w
Keep your eyes up The way the game works is probably the biggest safety concern. You need to check your phone to see if you're getting closer to that Pokemon you're chasing, and once you find it you've got to use the augmented reality of the app to "catch" the digital monster. The unfortunate side effect is that on any city street there's now hundreds of people now more focused than ever on their smartphone screens. They're not looking what's in front of them. I've seen three near-misses as gamers have walked into traffic, a fight break out after a gamer walked headlong into a rather angry drunk, and there's a ton of news reports detailing the players who were seriously injured because they didn't pay attention. If you want to play, step to the side of the pavement and play. Don't try to do it while you're walking as not looking where you're going can land you in serious trouble.
Be careful on the roads If you thought the pavement was bad, there's an increasing number of reports of players using the Pokemon Go app while their driving. That's insane. If you're driving you have a duty of care to keep your eyes on the road, but the reality is this simply isn't happening. Don't put your safety in the hands of a distracted driver. You need to stay aware of your surroundings, even as a pedestrian, and if a car is swerving all over the road, be prepared to dive out of the way should they decide catching Charmander is more important than mowing down a bunch of pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Don't play alone I love this game, it gets people who wouldn't normally leave the house up and about, but there are people out there looking to take advantage of you. The simplest tip is to find a couple of friends who can join you while you're playing the game. There's safety in numbers. As you venture around the city you can stick together, sharing the Uber cost or keeping an eye out for each other if you're exploring some of the more remote areas in your suburb. Never venture out alone if you're going to be wandering through unpopulated areas, it's just not safe.
Don't play at night The first guy to catch 142 Pokemon said he spent most nights out walking to 5-6am. To me, that's a real danger. For the most part he was out alone, wandering the streets late at night with his eyes glued to his phone. Luckily nothing bad had happened, but he was presenting himself as an idea target to get robbed. Be smart, and don't let your gaming habits put yourself in danger.
Take a battery pack After getting completely lost and having my phone die on me I'd say there's a serious need to ensure you've got a backup power kit for your phone, just in case. Pokemon Go drains your phone frighteningly quick, and if you've walked a few miles in search of Pokemon through a maze of suburban streets, you'll be stuck if you don't know how to get back to your home once it dies.
Be wary of your surroundings One of the core components of the game are called Lures. These are essentially "bait" for the Pokemon, and once played attract more to a particular area. For businesses they're a great tool to drive additional foot traffic to their stores, but a handful of shady people have been using these lures to bring unsuspecting Pokemon hunters to remote areas in order to rob them. No matter how much you want that Pokemon, use your common sense and don't walk into any areas that seem suspicious. Avoid anywhere that gives you a bad feeling.
Be wary of predators If you've got kids pay particular attention, as this last one is rather troubling. I read a piece about how easy it was to attract kids using the games lures, effectively giving predators access to unsupervised kids. I didn't want to believe it, but just to see, I tried this technique at a PokeStop in my local park. Within minutes eight kids showed up, four of which had no parental supervision at all. A couple of teens also came, and one guy in a suit that was obviously ditching work at 4pm on a Wednesday. After the 30 minute lure everyone began to wander off. But what happened during I couldn't believe. The kids had no fear, and a couple even approached me to ask about the Pokemon I had caught. As a dad with a young daughter, this is very scary, as the camaraderie in the game is overriding what we teach our kids about talking to strangers. If random kids feel comfortable approaching me, a large scruffy bearded random guy in a park, something is definitely wrong. Parents, don't let your kids out of your sight when they're playing this game, and pay attention to where they're going. The way the game works gives an opportunity for predators to groom your kids in 30 minute intervals, so keep an eye out for anyone acting suspicious, or PokeStops that are continually lighting up with lures. I'm all for Pokemon Go, and I've caught 50-odd Pokemon myself, but there are some real world dangers that our readers need to be aware of. I love how this game is bringing people together and getting us off the couch, I simply want all of you to stay safe while you're out there. Happy hunting!