Just like every other kid in the world, my teenagers are playing Pokemon Go. If you haven't heard of it, then you either don't know any kids or have been living under a rock not paying attention to the media (that's not meant to be an insult!). It has gone completely viral, and there's no telling how long it's going to last - but probably a very long time.
Just in case you haven't heard of it, it's a location-based/virtual game where people wander around and catch Pokemon characters for points. It only debuted on July 6, 2016, and it's already a huge phenomenon. In fact, it seems downright addictive for most people - even for adults who like to play.
But as fun as the game is, I have had some concerns from day one. Like anything, there are always pros and cons, so I'm going to go through some of them just in case you have child or know one.
1. Playing Pokemon Go gets your teen moving around.
With the technology boom, kids are much more sedentary than they were decades ago. It's more rare that they get outside and ride their bikes or play basketball with their neighborhood friends. Instead, many kids are sitting on the couch staring at their phones while playing a game. But with Pokemon Go, they HAVE to get outside and walk around or else they won't catch any Pokemon. So it's the perfect blend of technology and the old-school version of play - moving around.
2. It's fun.
Well, not for me. But for a lot of other people, including my kids! I am just not into any kind of video games, or even fads for that matter. I usually sit back and try to analyze why everyone is jumping on the bandwagon instead of actually joining them. But people seem to be having a blast playing this game. It connects people, and they can do it in groups and on teams. So not only is it fun for them, it often encourages connection between people.
1. It can be dangerous!
As soon as my kids started playing the game, I said to them, "Mark my words. There WILL be a lot of injuries from this game. Kids will be walking around not paying attention to their surroundings and get hit by a car or run into something." It's a very real concern. Pedestrians get injured all the time - even when they don't have their attention taken away by a game. So imagine how much worse it will be when people are glued to their phones outside.
2. Getting kidnapped!
I imagine all the child predators out there are just thinking up new ways to kidnap children. Let's face it, kids are pretty naïve - even teenagers. So if someone jumped out of his car and offered to help them catch Pokemon, the kids would probably think it was fine. Then, it would be so easy for them to become a victim since they trusted the person whom, in their minds, they were simply playing Pokemon with.
3. It drains a phone's battery.
If your kids wander far while catching the Pokemon, they could suddenly be caught by surprise by a dead phone. I worry about that with my 15-year-old. He likes to take long walks, so I am always concerned that he will end up somewhere far away and lost power on his phone. And that means he can't call me to come get him because he can't use his phone. So it's scary to think that unless they pay attention to the battery level on their phones, they could be in a sticky situation when they find they don't have the use of their phones.
What You Can Do:
But don't worry, as long as you are aware of the potential dangers, you can take measures to make sure your kids are safe while playing Pokemon Go. One that I particularly like is Teensafe which has created lots of information for parents to keep your teens safe while playing Pokemon Go. Start by reading this article and follow their advice.
Next, you need to talk to your teens about paying attention to where they are. Make sure they know they shouldn't wander off deep into the woods or ignore the suspicious car following them. Talk to them about the potential dangers. You want to scare them just enough so that are on high alert about what's going on around them.
Set limits for how far they can go, for how long, and who they can go with. Make sure they don't go alone or go too far for too long. Again, this is just a part of building awareness so they will be cautious while playing the game.
Finally, make sure they pay attention to the battery level on their phone. It's easy to ignore that - especially when they're having fun. So you need to make them hyper-aware if this. And also, buy them a portable charger.
Pokemon Go isn't the first fad we've had, and it certainly won't be the last. So we parents just need to stay educated about what's going on so we can be our children's first and best advocates. Because after all, what is more important than the safety of your child?