Pokémon Go or Pokémon No

If you can believe it, Pokémon has been around for over twenty years! The newest way to play is the sudden craze Pokémon Go, a game which gets the players to use their phones to walk around outside and catch the virtual monsters in the real world. Pokémon Go has been a huge and fast success for Nintendo as many people are playing it, children and adults alike.


The sudden flood of gamers has brought up some interesting reports of the benefits and concerns of playing Pokémon Go.  Some parents are claiming that the game has been a support for their children dealing with anxiety and depression in getting them to go out and about in their neighbourhoods. Parents are citing the increased activity, out of home exposure and social interactions as having had positive outcomes in helping manage symptoms. On the other hand, some parents are cautioning the use of the game because despite being outside, gamers are still fixated on their phones, are not paying attention thus are more prone to accidents and are actually increasing their anxiety due to the demands of the game. The pros and cons of this game are unique to every individual and family but as parents there are certain points to consider to ensure that you and your children are having fun in a safe and responsible manner.


Despite the sudden onset of this particular game, parents can often remember other crazes that took over their children’s time and attention. Knowing that Pokémon Go may quickly fade or stick around for a long time, it’s a great opportunity to try and explore the interest in this game with your children, to connect with them over something fun and even to teach them a few things along the way.


Remember that as you try and figure out what balance your kids need when playing Pokémon Go, it is important to recognize the developmental stage your children are at. Younger children will need more hands on and involved support from parents to learn your household’s expectations of play and allowable screen time. Parental support can include playing the game with your children, setting clear and defined timelines for game play and having fun and open conversations about the game.


With older children, parental support still involves clear boundaries and communication but will also benefit from more instruction and reflection. Allowing children to go and play in a safe manner will support social development, independence and teach problem solving skills to your children.

Now for a few important game features that provide opportunities for parent-child interactions. The game starts off with you exploring neighbourhoods and attempting to catch Pokémons. Players can also hatch Pokémons from their collection of eggs by walking pre-determined distances of 2 km, 5km and 10 km. What a great opportunity for parents to go for walks with their kids without having to convince them to go outside! Take the dog, go as a family or spend some quality one on one time with your child. Help your child pay attention to what’s going on around them during your walks, recognizing public versus private property and make sure that safety is a primary consideration for your children during game play.


On your walks, you will encounter Pokéstops, which often coincide with real historical monuments. Players can click on the Pokéstop icon on their phones and learn a little bit about their neighbourhood. These Pokéstops are points of interest that can get questions and conversations going and you’ll be amazed at what you might have been driving past every day without even noticing!


The game also incorporates gyms, a chance to pit your Pokémon against other players. Whether you’re training or battling your Pokémon, there can only be one winner. Be aware of your child’s emotional level and maintain communication throughout the game to help instill some emotional regulation. It’s a great opportunity to tune into how your child deals with stress because even though it’s from a video game, stress can be real to a child who is still developing a set of coping skills.


Lastly, remember that Pokémon Go is a community of gamers and it’s not hard to spot other players walking around playing. Pokémon Go is a great conversation starter and breaks the ice almost immediately when talking to other players on which Pokémons you’ve been able to catch. Be aware of your child’s ability to talk with others and use these meet-ups as teaching lessons. Incorporate safety awareness on talking to strangers and help your child develop the social skills that are important to you and your family.


Whether you have concerns or accolades for Pokémon Go, remember that as a parent-child team you can have fun playing the game while still maintaining your family’s expectations of play and balance. Have, fun, play safe and go try and catch them all!


By Ricardo Sarango