By now, even if you have not yet played “Pokemon Go,” you are more aware of it than your own breathing. You have read that the app has been more downloaded than any other app, ever, and that it has actually convinced kids to leave the house to go play outside — a miracle!
But you have probably also heard about the player who stumbled upon a dead body, and the two guys who walked off a cliff (but lived), and the 15-year-old who didn’t look up and got hit by a car. (She’s alive, too.) And then there were those four guys arrested in a black BMW somewhere in Missouri for waiting in a secluded area and robbing the Pokemon players who stopped by.
So if you are part of the vast web of very concerned adults whose purposes in life seem to be dreaming up terrible things that can happen to kids anytime they venture beyond the kitchen, you can relax. You’ve got your stranger-danger stories. Phew! Now you can remind us that anytime people are headed outside, especially kids, they had better think long and hard first.
And so CBS reports: “There are worries that sex offenders might use the app to lure children.” And, said an NBC station, the app “could potentially put young people at risk.”
Note to news editors: Worries are not the same as “realities.” What’s more, pretty much anything can “potentially” put young people at risk, including eating dinner (they could choke!), playing baseball (they could get hit by a bat!) and attending school (what if they fall off the stage during a production of “Annie”?).
As delightful as “Pokemon Go” is to play — I love it and I’ve never played videogames (or whatever this is) before — it almost seems to be more exciting to the authorities who can spit out a new set of warnings faster than you can say, “Air time.”
The San Francisco Police Department took it upon itself to tell parents that they should “know where your kids are going when playing with the app” and “set limits” — as if we couldn’t possibly figure this out for ourselves. As if this whole “kids going outside” thing is just so new and crazy.
The ‘Frisco fear-mongers added: “Know your surroundings and pay attention to where you’re going/ who is around you. Slow car paralleling a person on foot might be a sign it’s a getaway car.”
Um, yeah. Except that with literally 15,000,000 people playing this game across the entire country for the past week, we have that one BMW in Missouri to point to as an actual menace.
Meantime, over in England, which you’d think has bigger problems to freak out about, the authorities are warning that the app could be used to make children “easily accessible to criminals” — and they don’t even have the game there yet!
So the other morning I was walking around my bustling, leafy neighborhood, when I saw one mom showing another mom the app. The explainer had her 10-year-old son with her. “Can he go out on his own to play?” I (a stranger!) asked.
“Oh, no, no, no,” she said, as if I’d queried, “Would you bathe your child in acid?” The other mom agreed: No way.
“What age do you think you’ll let them play on their own?”
Answered Mom No. 1, grimly laughing: “28.”
“Pokemon Go” is so fun, so simple, so sharable, it is as if the company invented the 21st-century equivalent of the ball — a toy kids can play with on their own, or in a group, or when they’re walking down the street.
But the ball came of age before the warning industry, indeed before the dawn of history, so kids simply got to go outside and play with it.
Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog, “Free-Range Kids,” and a keynote speaker at conferences, companies and schools. Her TV show, “World’s Worst Mom” airs on the Discovery Life Channel.