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3 Healthy Alternatives to Pokémon GO

Discover three healthy alternatives to Pokémon GO, should you or your children decide to opt out of the great virtual hunt.

By
Ben Greenfield,
September 20, 2016
Episode #303

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Unless you’re an isolated hippie living in a forest, or someone who completely eschews technology and lives off-grid with a landline phone (do they even make those anymore?), you have no doubt heard of the Pokémon GO craze sweeping the world. Pokémon GO is a free, location-based reality game for iOS and Android devices in which players use a mobile device’s GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train tiny virtual creatures called Pokemon, who, thanks to the wonders of technology, appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.

I realized the extreme viral nature of this craze when I went for a bike ride on my local trail last week and discovered what had previously been a relatively forsaken fitness trail suddenly overtaken by random students, children, old men, families, and what seemed to be the entire population of the city walking around with their faces buried in a phone, oblivious to runners and cyclists on the trail. As you can imagine, I was simultaneously intrigued and annoyed.

And of course, I’ve been repeatedly asked the question, “Do your kids play Pokémon GO”? In this episode, you’ll discover the answer, and get five healthy alternatives to Pokémon GO:

Is Pokémon GO Healthy?

I was recently reading the Salon.com article The dangers of Pokémon Go: Kids’ brains are vulnerable to virtual and augmented reality, which reported on how researchers conducted three separate studies with over 1,600 video gamers and found that many showed strange post-game hallucinogenic-like effects: hearing or seeing aspects of the game hours or days after they had stopped playing, including sound effects, music and characters voices, explosions, sword swipes and screams. One gamer reported hearing someone from the game whispering “death” for several days after they had stopped playing while another reported seeing images from the game randomly pop up in front of their eyes.

The author of the article goes on to report that children who play Minecraft (another viral smartphone game) report seeing the real world in the cube shapes prevalent in Minecraft, and young video gamers who have blurred reality with that of their game, including one teenager who had to be hospitalized for a month after suffering a version of psychosis following many days of playing another popular game called World of Warcraft.

The author also describes how researchers at Tel Aviv University have published reports and cases of something called “Internet-related psychosis,” in which constant screen immersion produces “psychotic phenomena."

In my opinion, for young children who are still attempting to differentiate between the virtual and the real world, between what is a pixel and what is a true atomic element of life, this can be quite a dangerous phenomenon indeed.

So while my kids do occasionally use my phone to play around with Snapchat, send Grandma text messages, and take photos of cool plants and bugs they’ve found outside, they haven’t been caught up in the Pokémon GO craze—not because I’ve “forbidden” them from it or been a helicopter parent—but simply because I’ve provided them with healthy alternatives that they seem to thoroughly enjoy. Here are five of those healthy alternatives to Pokemon GO, which my own children partake in nearly every day.

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