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How modern kids use their imaginations
A little girl plays Pokemon Go outdoors. Pokemon Go is a popular virtual reality game for mobile devices. The game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokemon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. - photo by Chandra Johnson
With the popularity of Pokemon Go, millions of kids are getting outside to collect the fictional creatures.

The game is a breakthrough for augmented reality, with characters appearing on a map within the app, and as a recent Atlantic article pointed out, it also stands to revive a much more old-school form of play: Make believe.

"Some say the technology Go introduced to the world could bring back the kind of outdoor, creative and social forms of play that used to be the mainstay of childhood," Georgia Perry wrote. "Augmented reality, it stands to reason, could revitalize the role of imagination in kids learning and development."

That's crucial, as some child development experts have worried in recent years that technology use has detracted from the kind of play that helps children thrive.

Technology use such as social media, experts argue, take away from boredom, a key component in the kind of "free play" that fosters creativity as well as social and emotional development.

But others argue that playing video games (including more interactive ones such as Pokemon Go) doesn't count as the same kind as spontaneous play kids need to help them develop.

An article in Quartz pointed out that games that lead to distraction or rote tasks (such as mashing a button in a first-person shooter game) dampen the hippocampus part of the brain, which "may lead to a variety of ill effects, including psychiatric disorders, Alzheimers disease, learning disabilities, and even increased vulnerability to addiction."

Play that's inseparable from a screen is no substitute for the real thing, other experts say.

"Even though a child may be playing this game outside, his brain is functioning in the exact same way it would if he were spending hours in an arcade," Kristen Race, author of "Mindful Parenting," wrote in the New York Times. "The only difference is now he needs sunscreen."
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