“Augmented Reality” – there’s a phrase I certainly didn’t grow up knowing. In fact, if I would have heard it before this week, I would have assumed it was caused by alcohol or drugs. Apparently, it is merely caused by a free download to a smartphone. From what seems like out of nowhere, Pokemon Go is everywhere – filling my social media newsfeeds, in mainstream media, taking over conversations and causing people everywhere to be even more endlessly staring at their smartphones. The role of GPS has taken on a whole new dimension as players find area appropriate Pokemon on technology instead of collecting Pokemon cards.
My social media feeds are also filled with polarizing opinions - people are harshly criticizing this new craze while others urge people to download the app and start playing. It seems to be a “you love it” or “you hate it” situation. Either the new technology will be destroying children and families or it will be saving them. Could it really be so terrible or so great?
I have been interviewed by newspapers and magazines in the past about my opinion of technology so I figured that I’d better start forming an opinion. Just as I began to lean toward the negative, I saw my friend Krista’s Facebook post. She wrote, “My husband and 3 children are on a walk looking for Pokemon!”
I decided to continue on down my newsfeed and found another status which began with “I just sent my son and his friend outside to walk to town and find Pokemon…”
- Families are looking for Pokemon together.
- People are outside walking and exploring.
- Peers are working together.
This is certainly better than…
- Everyone is in a separate room or silently staring at separate devices.
- Young people never go outside anymore.
- No one is getting exercise. And..
- Young people are individually on technology.
I remember when my youngest son was a teen. He was on a headset alone in his room playing a video game with friends who weren’t in our home. He also played with strangers sometimes. He was indoors, interacting with I didn’t know whom and this did not make me happy. I was glad when he mostly outgrew it.
I remember being a teen and young adult spending lots of time on the arcade games in the college student center. I was determined to beat my last high score on Centipede or that Atari Snake game. It was the modern technology of its time and we were definitely hooked.
Every generation has their craze – an activity that seems to consume them. I always hesitate to just denounce technologically based activities. Times change. In order to lift people up, we have to meet them where they are and bring them forward. They are on technology. It is who this generation is and it is the basis of their world. I cannot change that. I cannot bring back a time before them. But I can point out one problem with it all….
There seems to be no boundaries in this technology addiction. Parents are on cell phones as their children desperately try to get their attention. I have seen people check for text messages during religious services, during movies & shows in darkened theaters and even at funerals. They can’t seem to stop themselves. Now, the hunt for Pokemon is leading to injury and mayhem because people aren’t looking up in the middle of traffic and in other dangerous situations.
The addictive nature of technology isn’t unique to Pokemon. Our competitive nature that it seems to draw out isn’t unique to this craze either. Perhaps it isn’t the game itself that needs to stop but it is our lack of boundaries and self-awareness that must be addressed. When adults cannot put down their smartphones but then complain about students or other young people, it is hypocritical. The majority of us are in it. Own it. We are constantly checking email, texting, playing one technologically based game or another. In this era, we have to know how to do this in order to stay relevant in the workplace, with our children or with our students.
The goal needs to become the same goal that we grew up with but related to different activities – moderation. You can go outside (please do!), explore places (yay!) and spend time with family and friends (even if it is discussing characters with funny names)… but you can’t do it instead of meeting your responsibilities and you cannot risk your health or safety and there will be timeframes and boundaries for this activity just like all others.
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