To say that the augmented reality game, Pokémon Go, has taken the world by storm is an understatement: it is a global phenomenon.
The popularity of the game does, however, raise some questions. Reports of trespassing as well as players subjected to physical dangers are well known. Pokémon Go is more than just a game. It is a glimpse into an augmented reality future, a foreshadowing of a world where spheres of the physical and the digital are intertwined. As binary codes are increasingly superimposed on our literal world view, it is those most susceptible to conditioning influences that will be affected the most. It is time to examine what are the potential impact of Pokémon Go on a child’s social and physical development.
According to Dr Dané Coetzee, lecturer and kinderkineticist at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, Pokémon Go’s reward based incentives imbedded in the game, such as distances walked, serve a promising purpose.
“If you do give rewards for a child to be physically active or to start moving and it is something they really want or need, then it is good for them to get off their butts and of the couch to start exercising and to start being physically active. ” That said, she cautions that these incentives should be put under careful consideration.
“I think the Pokémon Go phenomenon is positive and negative regarding the social skills that will be developed,” Coetzee explains whilst saying that a bigger emphasis should be placed in facilitating verbal face-to-face communication for the benefit of developing a child’s social skills.
“Fine motoric skills will definitely be developed, but as we all know Generation Y is already very good on the phone and with screen time.” She goes on to add that these fine motoric skills will only be applicable to in-game scenarios and won’t necessarily aid children in the real world.
“I really believe that no screen time is better than any, but because we have to keep up with trends, if you use it and you use it in the right ways. And, if you limit the screen time whilst incorporating more physical it can be beneficial, but not Pokémon Go in its current guise. The better a child’s motor skills are, the better his or her academic performance will be, so it is very important that your child’s motor skills are on the level they need to be for his or her age before they start playing these games.”
This age, according to her, is not before the ages of eight or nine years old.
Then there is the question of how these augmented reality applications distorts a child’s perception of reality. “It is a very grey area. A child may look at these reality based applications and they think that this is how things should go, that it is fine to run into the street to catch a Pokémon whilst it is not. It is up to the parents, the legal guardian or therapist to ensure that their view of reality isn’t skewed.”
As with most technological advances, these are the tentative steps into a brave new world. The wheel can’t be turned back, but should be steered in a direction that best benefits the user. “Apps like these will be used more and more in the future. If we just look at generation Y we see that they really do like to use technology such as iPads and smart phones, so we need to stay on trend with what is happening. Rather get on it and do it correctly, because if you need to use an app to get a child moving it is better than no moving at all.”
Contact Dr Dané Coetzee at 018 299 1792 and Dane.Coetzee@nwu.ac.za or 082 260 5974.