I have six boys who love Pokemon and were very excited about the release of Pokemon Go. My boys range in age from 6 to 15. They love their video games and we have always worked to help them play video games responsibly. The arrival of Pokemon Go by Niantic is yet another opportunity for us as parents to reinforce moderation and self-control.
Let me begin by saying my husband and I take our boys out with us to play Pokemon Go. Our 15-year-old has a cell phone but he only is able to use it in settings with free WiFi. We also don’t give our other kids a cell phone. I know other people give their kids cell phones at a young age, but not us. We love our tech but our kids don’t need a phone in their pockets until necessary and they can help contribute to the cell phone bill. There is also the minimum age of 13 to have your own account in Pokemon Go. Most of our kids need us in order to play.
With them playing with us, we can make sure they can experience Pokemon Go, are being safe while playing, are learning skills that will help them in the future and are spending quality time with their parents who are engaging them in their interests.
Pokemon Go in Moderation
We have certain times that we go out to play Pokemon Go and limit their play time as we would with any video game indoors. Health is important and we all know that too much of one thing isn’t good for us, no matter how much fun we’re having. We are out for 30 mins to an hour and that is it. Sometimes we break up our time by stopping at a park to play. I find that they actually welcome the park break. Limiting their play time is healthy as there are friends they could be playing with, food they could be eating, reading they could be doing… Life can’t revolve around Pokemon Go or any other single activity.
We want to teach our kids how to prioritize, which means making sure that chores and other responsibilities are taken care of before we go on a Pokemon adventure. I will tell them our To Do list that takes priority over going out the door. We don’t leave until it is done. Games should never take priority. As I mentioned, we take breaks at the park. During that park time, the game is off. They are there to play with other kids and the equipment. Adults are talking to other parents. Relationships take priority at that time. It is not the time to be looking at a cell phone.
Pokemon Go and Self Control
I have heard so many news reports about people using the game while driving or injuring themselves by looking at their cell phones. Let’s get one thing straight, you don’t need to stare at your phone constantly to play the game. You can see on the map where the characters are and can walk with your eyes looking up and get to that general area. Your phone also buzzes when a Pokemon appears in your space to alert you to capture it. Keep your eyes up and put your phone away until you reach your destination.
While crossing a street, our phone has buzzed. My younger boys shout to me that my phone buzzed and encourage me to look and I tell them “No”. There is no looking at the cell phone until we have finished safely crossing the street. I want to reinforce these basic safety and self-control concepts so that when they are at the age to get behind the wheel of a car or are using their phones in the future at a site where they need to remain alert, they have seen that your phone (and Pokemon) can WAIT. Self control along with prioritizing activities is a skill that I see many people struggle with these days. That is why I see this as a great opportunity to teach them.
Respect For Property
This is also a time to teach respect for other’s property. One of the PokeStops in our area is a Legion Hall. The sidewalk is adequate enough to retrieve the supplies at the stop. You don’t need to go to the front door or past the decorative fence to play the game. While we’ve been there, it has been an opportunity to talk to the boys about veterans. It is a chance to pause from the game and talk about where we are and why a spot has been flagged. Why is this space important to the community. They are being taught that the building’s identity is not a PokeStop/playground. It is Legion Hall. Be respectful. Again, self-control and prioritization.
Engaging In Their Interests
Many times, we ask our children to engage in activities that we want to do and we sell it as a “family activity”. This is an easy win with the kids. Not only are you getting outside and you are getting exercise by walking (trying telling the kids you want to go on a fun family walk and see what kind of reaction you get).
When playing Pokemon Go, we talk about which direction (street) we’re going to take our character, if we’re going to a PokeStop to gather supplies or a Pokemon Gym to battle other players. They enjoy making group decisions and they enjoy that we can speak their video game language (although I am still learning. My first battle at a Gym was a failure).
Pokemon Go is a great game to play as a family. Sure it is glitchy and the servers are offline but that will work itself out as they respond to the number of users and the rush dies down. Grab this opportunity as a parent to interact with your kids. This is geocaching for video game characters in your own neighbourhood. You are getting exercise and getting outdoors. Any activity can be turned into a teaching opportunity, so use it. Have fun and enjoy the time you can spend with your kids. They grow up too fast and one day you’ll wish they wanted to be seen playing a game with you outside.