On its release in 2016, the Pokémon Go craze spread quicker than the rampant fear of a killer virus, supplying kids with a way to get off the couch and walk outside without abandoning their precious “smart” devices. Parents saw this as a great way for their kids to maintain a healthier lifestyle and also as a way to connect with them on family outings. However, not every family has found this to be a replacement for the long-dead family game night. For many kids, Pokémon Go has become a way to further isolate themselves, only now being exposed and vulnerable outside the security of their homes.
While the game does encourage a buddy system, it also cautions players to always be aware of their surroundings each time the game is played. With a few quick thumb swipes, however, the message is gone and forgotten. We saw the results of this carelessness within the media on a near-daily basis, with kids and adults being robbed and even getting hit by cars, all because players failed to look up from the tiny screen. But what wasn’t mentioned within mainstream media outlets were the number of kids being abducted while playing the game.
Eight-hundred-thousand kids go missing every year in America alone. If suicide is considered an epidemic among the US, the same effort to spread awareness should be given to that of missing children; if not, more. While suicide is a conscious choice made by an individual, typically adults, innocent kids—some not even old enough to know the word ‘suicide’—are being abducted all over the world. With the number of high profile celebrities in Hollywood and in politics being indicted for their involvement in child/human trafficking, a game that leads kids to isolated areas unsupervised should be given more attention in the media.
Players find and catch Pokémon in all areas of the world, particularly parks and wooded areas. Green belts, city parks, and landmarks are where a player might find a ‘gym,’ where they battle each other for more points. “Lures” can be cast to bring more Pokémon, as well as other players, to your location. In a wooded area, this game uses location services, essentially doing all the work for an abductor. While most kids are taught to never talk to a stranger, this lesson can be thrown out the window if one is playing the same game as the child.
However, amongst the fear and chaos, the Covid lockdowns have had somewhat of a positive impact in the sense that it keeps kids indoors. Parents should become better aware of where their kids are going, especially if they play games such as Pokémon Go, which is about to release an updated sixth generation version.