• Pokémon Go: What Parents Need to Know

    Dr. Gary Brown, Pokemon Go, Los Angeles Counseling

    Pokémon Go is the hottest game on the block and, although I admit initially I thought that it would be a quick fad, it’s proving to be the golden ticket for kids and parents, alike. In its first week, this was the most downloaded app on iTunes EVER with reportedly 15 million downloads.

    Pokémon was popular when many current parents were kids, so it’s a great way for parents to connect with their children on their level. It was first a video game, which morphed into a very popular card game, then became a cartoon. It’s return in the latest form has been exceedingly popular.

    So parents who aren’t playing yet, and those of you who are, here’s what you should know about the game that has your kids disconnected from the Xbox, and attached to their iPhone this summer.


    Cost Conscious

    Let’s start with the cost of the game. Your kids will say, “It’s free to download. It doesn’t cost a thing!” And this is true.

    The greatest thing about this game is that it gets your kids out of the house and out into nature, but unfortunately, there is no Wi-Fi connection in nature, so 4G is the only option. As we’ve found out, this game is quite the data suck— if you don’t have unlimited data on your plan, I suggest keeping a close eye on the game usage.

    Social Network

    I have talked to a few parents this week who say it’s been great for their relationship with their kids. They are able to spend quality time with each other out walking around the neighborhood or parks and exploring new parts of their cities in search of new Pokémon. They have this shared experience to bond with their kids over and talk about at dinner. They feel this new bond could expand into other areas of their lives and hope that their kids will feel comfortable talking to them about other things going on in their lives.

    Now, the downside to the social aspect of this game, because with every rose comes a thorn, right?

    As a player, you are encouraged to create teams to battle other players. This, similar to any other social media, can create a false sense of camaraderie. We will talk more about this in the “Safety” section, but it’s important that with this game, like any other multiplayer video game, you limit the amount of time kids spend in the virtual world. While it’s great to feel a sense of belonging to something, it is very important for kids to learn real-world social skills and cultivate relationships with classmates and friends, too.


    Safety First, Last, and Always

    Something I really like about this game, so far, is that while it does use location services to help you play the game, it does not have a chat feature and no one can see your specific location. This really cuts down on inappropriate use of the app. However, strangers, strange places and battery life are all cause for concern.

    However, many Pokémon locations are the same for all players, depending on what level you are at in the game. So, this being said, anyone with a cell phone can download the game and wind up at the same place as your child. It’s important to have a conversation with your children, especially if they are at an age where they can be out by themselves, that they know to stay in groups and not talk to strangers. It’s a tough thing when you recall that sense of camaraderie between the players.

    While you’re out at a new park or walking along a busy street, it’s extremely important that you are aware of your surroundings. This is also a great lesson to teach your kids. So often people are staring at the screen walking around totally oblivious to what’s going on around them. The screen isn’t 100% accurate, which is how you have people getting injured by walking into traffic or slipping on unexpected terrain. We’ve already seen “Pokémon patients” in our local emergency rooms! Physical safety is a huge concern with this game!

    Another item of importance when it comes to safety and perhaps something you might not consider—the battery life of your cell phone. The kids leave the house to play and the app drains their battery. Is there a plan in place that when you’re battery life reaches a certain point, you stop the game and get somewhere to charge your phone or return home or check in somehow? The point of your children having a cell phone, ultimately, is so that they can call you so you know they are safe, so they can ask for a ride, to let you know where they are, etc.  If you or they are really involved with this game, then consider getting a backup battery pack like the Mophie Juice Pack.


    Final Thoughts

    Overall, this game is answering the call to get kids off the couch and back out into nature! This summer certainly is not going to be spent inside for many kids and that’s a truly wonderful thing.

    The best piece of advice I can give is, if you’re not already playing the game with your kids, download it now! Get involved! It could be the best investment you make this summer in spending more time with your kids!


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