What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon is back! Pokémon Go – a virtual reality app and game based on the popular late 1990s handheld and card game, released in the US on Thursday of last week and within days, it felt like everyone I know – parents and kids alike – were walking around outside trying to catch Pokémon.
An explosion of news articles, safety warnings from police departments urging people not to play while driving, and funny stories appeared on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s a virtual – and literal! – phenomenon, and as parents we can see both the values and dangers of a game like Pokémon Go.
Here are 5 things – pros and cons – we think parents should know about Pokémon Go:
1. PRO: Pokémon Go Gets Kids Up and Moving!
Because Pokémon Go is a virtual reality game, it essentially puts Pokémon in your path. The app accesses the camera on your phone and Pokémon pop up as you walk around. You can see “Pokéstops” which can be landmarks, buildings, or other places nearby. Going on “Pokémon walks” to catch different ones around your neighborhood, going to the park, going for hikes or walks around your city … all these are awesome ways the game encourages people to get moving while they play. Parents can encourage this behavior within limits, both time and geographical.
2. PRO: Pokemon Go Is a GREAT Way to Spend Time Together!
Many millennial parents may recall playing Pokémon as kids or teenagers, making it an easy way to get parents and kids playing together. Even if you aren’t interested in playing, chances are your kids can find plenty of friends (even their siblings!) to play with. Going on walks, to the park, etc are great ways to get kids and families together. And even if you aren’t a Pokémon fan yourself, what a quick and easy way to bond with your Pokémon-loving kids! Give it a try. It’s like a virtual reality scavenger hunt!
3. CON: You Have to Watch Where You Walk!
While your kids are out hunting for the best Pokémon, make sure they heed the warning on the first screen of the game to pay attention to their surroundings! (Parents who play, this goes for you too … ) It is far too easy to get engrossed in the game and find yourself wandering too far from home, in the middle of the street, or into a potentially dangerous situation. Here are our suggestions for ways to keep healthy boundaries on Pokémon Go:
- Talk to your kids about safe boundaries. If you are comfortable with your kids playing within a certain radius of your house, discuss that radius with them and let them you know you trust them to be smart, but if they wander too far or you can’t get ahold of them, you will have to limit the game.
- To increase the fun, suggest you go as a family to a local park or a new part of the city together. Use this as an opportunity to get out and explore together!
4. CON: Potential Phone Security Issues
Because the “gyms” and “Pokéstops” in the game are pervasive, anyone with the game downloaded on their phone can see them and congregate there. Hypothetically (and in some cases reported so far, actually), people with harmful motivations could be waiting at those places, including robbers and other criminals. If your kids are playing unsupervised, make sure you talk to them ahead of time about common sense and staying aware of their surroundings. Don’t let your kids play alone if they are walking around outside. We think the best way to play is as a family – tons of fun and bonding together and assurance that everyone stays safe!
5. PRO: Family Fun!
With Pokémon Go, the makers of Pokémon have brought the beloved game to a new generation. It’s a really great opportunity to play a fun game together, whether you all have it on individual devices or the family shares one and takes turns while you travel. Laugh together, play together, take unnecessary (but safe!) detours together. Enjoy the opportunity to get outside together this summer. Have fun!
John Henderson is the Chief Technology Officer at Minno.