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How Pokemon Go Can Help With Your Mental Health

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Pokemon Go, currently the most popular game on the planet, is dividing opinion. Harmless fun? Or waste of time? Sofia thinks it’s doing wonders for people’s self esteem.

…there are…complaints about how technology is negatively impacting young people

Since its release earlier this month, Pokemon Go has already become one of the biggest crazes of this year. It has already broken stock market records by having the biggest daily turnover  and it has now become the biggest mobile app in the US with huge numbers of people playing it . Even so, understandably, there are complaints about problems with the new technology and also complaints about how technology is negatively impacting young people.

After speaking to two teenagers Sarah and Louise (names have been changed for anonymity) about using the app, I found their experiences were overwhelmingly positive and they didn’t think there was any harm in playing a game that reminds them strongly of their childhood. There are many Pokemon fans who grew up obsessively playing the games and it is just another small thing to give those people a bit of happiness during their day. The game can also still be played even if you have no clue what a Rattata or a Pidgey is, which is what makes it so successfully inclusive.

The game can also still be played even if you have no clue what a Rattata or a Pidgey is…

With the end of the school year arriving too, it is a great opportunity for young people to have new experiences and Pokemon Go is certainly one of them. Trying something new is an important part of growing up, and it helps to develop you as a person. It may not seem like this is true as an app is not as important as having a baby or getting a job for the first time but it may give you something that is temporarily new, which can be exciting too. With new technology, it’s also a great thing to look back at in a few years and to talk about as we do with songs that were popular years ago.

The game uses technology that warps the space around people, and encourages people to get outside. Sarah thought it was a good way to get herself out of the house and so she is taking more walks than usual, which she feels is good for her health and takes advantage of the time she has. Exercise is something Sarah thinks is important for young people to get for those reasons. Louise says she finds it gives her motivation on days where she has none because it is summer and there is no concrete reason ‘to have to do’ anything. The game has helped Louise to self care for herself as she feels there is little support elsewhere, especially because she feels that her age leaves her open to stigma when she tries to seek help.

There are often complaints about young people not leaving the house…

There are often complaints about young people not leaving the house, and being absorbed in technology more than young people would have been many years before. Technology exists permanently as a whole. It is there to help make our lives easier in one way or another. There is no way we can get rid of every smartphone in one day so even if young people are still walking around with their faces in their phones, the technology is being used in a way that is helpful as it encourages people to stand in the daylight rather than hunch over a computer screen in bed at three in the afternoon.

Other young people, who have difficulty socialising or leaving their houses because of anxiety or other mental health problems, have said the app has helped. This kind of experience gives them a chance to connect with new people who often travel out to locations where there are lots of Pokemon because of lures that other people have set. For Louise who struggles with social anxiety, it has improved the symptoms of her mental health illness when she is approached by people in secure environments who are also playing the game as it takes the pressure away from her to have to approach people first. She finds herself getting out of bed earlier in the mornings because of this, which is good news all round. As a bystander, I am watching a young person become slowly empowered by the smallest change in their life.

I am watching a young person become slowly empowered by the smallest change in their life.

There is also a sense of human connection, which people often think technology cannot give you, when people connect with their friends who also play the game. What can be better than that? As long as young people are being responsible, traveling to only safe public places, and not using the app whilst driving, Pokemon Go is just a bit of innocent fun for people of all ages. But as always, being street wise is important and young people should always remember to do what they can to keep themselves safe.

Whilst this app is not the biggest thing we should concern ourselves with and there are going to be faults or risks no matter what, it’s undeniable that it has a great influence on players of all ages as a whole and this influence can be something good even if it isn’t first obvious. With Pokemon Go, something bigger may soon replace it or it may be the biggest thing we have to experience so far but for now, it’s summer and it’s a perfect opportunity to catch a Zubat.

Have you caught them all? Is this having a positive effect on you? Let us know on Twitterand Facebook.

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, you can contact Off The Record who provide free, confidential mental health support and information to young people in Bristol.