What parents and caregivers should know about Pokémon Go

By Michelle Talsma Everson

It just debuted two months ago but Pokémon Go has become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, according to a recent infographic released by Touchstone Research. With millions of youth striving to “Catch ‘Em All,” what should adults know about the game? We talked to the experts to find out.

What is Pokémon Go?

 In Japanese, “Pokémon” means “pocket monster,” and the Pokémon franchise has been around for years in the form of TV shows, comics, card games, and more.

“Pokémon Go is a free-to-play mobile app that you can download for iOS or Android. It’s free to download and start playing, but you have the option to use real money to buy in-game currency called PokéCoins,” cites a recent article on LifeHacker.com. “Those PokéCoins are used to purchase Pokéballs, the in-game item you need to be able to catch Pokémon.”

“The game works by using your phone’s GPS for your real-world location and augmented reality to bring up those cool-looking Pokémon on your screen, overlaid on top of what you see in front of you,” the article continues. “And you—the digital you—can be customized with clothing, a faction (or ‘team’ of players you can join) and other options, and you level up as you play.”

Physical Safety

Jeff Shultz, M.D., an emergency room physician at John C. Lincoln Medical Center, says that he has seen injuries happen when Pokémon Go players aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.

“Players of all ages need to be aware of their surroundings at all times; there have been stitches needed, sprains, bruises, lacerations and more because kids aren’t paying attention while playing the game and walk into something,” Shultz comments.

Another concern is outdoor safety.

 

“Pay attention to the weather; even though fall is coming it’s still hot outside,” he says. “You need far more water than you think you do and are susceptible to heat-based illnesses if you’re outside for too long and get dehydrated or overheated.”

Shultz and the team at John C. Lincoln Medical Center also advise parents to make sure they and their children are paying attention when crossing intersections; are watching for others around them; and don’t have headphones on too loud while using the game.

“When it comes to screen time, using moderation is fine,” he adds. “Don’t allow yourself or your child to become obsessive with the game; play it in short bursts of time.”

Shultz adds that parents should limit playing Pokémon Go—and all screen time—an hour before bed so kids can transition into a restful sleep easier.

Parental Involvement

Loretta Brady, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Saint Anselm College, co-director of the Media Engagement and Development Impact Lab at Saint Anselm College, a licensed clinical psychologist and a parent. She affirms that there are many positives that have come out of the Pokémon Go game craze.

“Young people are actually out and about, sharing and interacting in a non-virtual world,” she says. “There have been stories shared of those with anxiety, autism and general distaste for being outdoors all finding themselves enjoying being out and being social.”

Brady encourages parents to get involved and hunt Pokémon with their children. Some of her other tips include:

  • As you and your child hunt Pokémon, share stories about the first time you went to this location, or add things for them to hunt for.
  • Model the safety you want to see. One way is to require someone to be a spotter (who isn’t looking at their phone) and letting one child be in control of the Pokémon Go game.
  • Set healthy limits, both to protect your data charges and to help kids understand that while the game is fun and engaging, there are other things to do with leisure time.
  • Model manners. “When a signal came up suggesting a character was about to appear on our neighbor’s lawn, we stopped and considered where we were, whether we could get permission to be there, and what we would do if this wasn’t a house we knew well,” says Brady.
  • Becoming informed and learning about the game and technology will help as questions and challenges arise.

“If you want the benefits of this game without the technology, there are always the good old-fashioned scavenger hunts and geocaching games that have been fun and popular for many years,” Brady adds.

Digital Safety

Of course, being a mobile app, many parents are concerned about digital safety. Foremost on the list are privacy concerns; according to media reports, Pokémon Go’s parent company Niantic has stated publically that no private information has been utilized. Still, major organizations like the Better Business Bureau, advise that users play the game with caution.

Desiree Martinez, social media expert and owner of All-In-One Social Media, says that Pokémon Go is most effective—and safest—when done as a group activity.

“When parents play the game with kids they can not only monitor them physically but keep an eye on them digitally as well,” she notes. “The game is really fun as a group activity so that everyone can stay safe, be supervised and have fun.”

Some digital basics that Martinez shares is that the game can use up a lot of data and that players can use real money within the game so parents should keep their password private.

“There is also something called a ‘lure party’ at a PokeStop where other players place a ‘lure’ at a particular location so that more Pokémon will be there; some PokeStops are odd places like cemeteries and so forth, so parents should know where their children are playing the game at all times,” she advises. “I recommend always using the ‘buddy system,’ to be aware of your surroundings, and to not hunt Pokémon at night.”

Martinez says that Pokémon Go is a prime example of “edutainment.”

“One benefit of the game is that you learn about different areas and landmarks,” she says. “Pokémon Go recently did an update where it’s harder to use third party apps to find Pokémon, which is good, because the game isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be fun. This type of game—where you use augmented reality—is where gaming is going to go.”

 

 

 

 

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