A Time to 'Go' and a Time to Stop
Q: What do you think about the game Pokémon Go? I’ve seen lots of kids, and adults, walking around with their eyes glued to their phones, stopping at random places. It’s almost like the app became a cultural phenomenon overnight. Even my own children are really curious about it. And I’m sure this is just the beginning as Nintendo, and other companies, look to cash in on the popularity of these types of “augmented reality” titles. Any guidelines when it comes to balance and boundaries?
A: As a parent, you have the privilege of guiding your kids through cultural events like this when they come along. Here are three important things to keep in mind as you consider the impact of Pokémon Go on your family:
- Like any game, Pokémon Go can become addictive. It’s important to establish clear limits with agreed-upon and consistent consequences. The game is a privilege, not a right, and there’s a difference between the reality of the world you’re walking in and the fiction of pursuing Pokémon.
- It can be difficult for kids to perceive the risks. Video games are supposed to be safe for them. As a parent, you need to be aware of hackers, “friends” online who are not friends in person, kids running off in search of characters, “luring” of kids by sexual predators and risks that come with giving out personal information. Encourage your kids to use common sense and be aware of their surroundings while playing the game. Going in groups is a great policy to consider.
- If you decide your family is going to be part of the Pokémon Go craze, and others to come, then who says this game is just for kids? Embrace this opportunity to get to know your kids better by communicating creative life lessons and boundaries as you play together. Enjoy the time, adventure and laughter with them! I recently saw a young mom running around the park with her three sons looking for Pokémon characters. Your goal is to teach your kids how to find balance in life while they enjoy and engage in the many opportunities available to them.
It’s also important to consider that games like these create more "parenting" work. Although it seems this game can help free up time for you, it’s really going to involve more intentionality, communication, limit-setting and follow-through. I recently visited the Sierra Nevada Mountains where a nearby father was frustrated over the fact that his 13-year-old son was focused on finding Pokémon Go characters, rather than taking in the view. His son’s eyes were locked on his phone, oblivious to the amazing natural wonders around him. This father will most likely be having some future discussions with his son.
Sometimes special moments like these are lost because we’re already looking for the next moment. Pokémon Go encourages players to always be in pursuit of the "next." That can cause them to disconnect from the real, amazing moments happening around them in the moment.
Having a game that effectively combines the digital world with reality is impressive and incredibly fun. But remember: you’re helping your kids learn the art of relating, renewing, and responsibility (working) in their real world. The key is teaching and exemplifying balance.
Pokémon Go can give you a chance to teach boundaries, safety, and common sense. I hope that you and your family use these opportunities to connect with one another and emphasize the importance of the real moments in front of you.