By Dr. Sky Izaddoost
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care
As a pediatrician, one of the most dreaded questions I have to ask is: What are you doing this summer? “Nothing” is the number one answer. While our kids do benefit from the unstructured summer months, they spend too much time glued to the television, video games, smartphones, and tablets. These tools can be used for an educational purpose, but sometimes, kids revert to Sponge Bob reruns, Netflix binging, and the never-ending Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Toca Hair Salon. This costs our children some badly needed exercise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese. That is 12.7 million children in the United States. Both a diet of moderation and exercise are vital to curing this problem, but also according to the CDC, over 75 percent of teenagers are not getting the recommended hour of physical activity daily.
Fortunately, now there is a popular smartphone app that is encouraging San Antonio’s children to get up and out, but is it safe?
By now you have probably heard about Pokémon GO on the news, read about it on Facebook or been cornered by your children to get the app. If not, Pokémon GO is a new app that is encouraging children to get up and well, GO! By using a GPS tracker, it determines the distance you have traveled and allows different Pokémon eggs to become available. They even have special distance challenges that require walking up to 10km to hatch an egg.
Several of our area parks have been filled with adults and children going to PokéStops to collect their Pokéballs. This is an awesome development in helping children link technology with outdoor activity. Numerous landmarks have associated PokéStops teaching our kids about the history of our beloved city while playing the game.
It all sounds so wonderful. No more fighting our kids to go outside. No more pulling them off the couch. No more buying home exercise equipment that collects dust. However, it’s not all that glamorous! While our children are outside, they are not interacting with the outside world, just walking through it.
Pokémon GO has its pitfalls. Literally, you can fall while playing because you are unaware of your surroundings. There is also a growing concern that criminals may wait near rare PokéStops to take advantage of unsuspecting players. A recent 15 car pile-up on our freeways was related to a player who wanted to catch a rare Pikachu while driving.
Ultimately, if you are going to play Pokémon GO, always be vigilant of your surroundings, stay in familiar areas, keep an eye on your kids, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated.
Encourage your children to stop playing intermittently to look at the landscape and the history around town. Use the game to explore our city and all it has to offer. By the way, if you have extra lures available, drop them off at The Children’s Hospital so kids who can’t go out to play can catch Pokémon, too.