Pokemon GO is the latest gaming craze that has been embraced by kids of all ages. It’s also a new challenge for parents and teachers to work out some rules around.
If your kids have been fans of Pokemon on their Gameboys and DS’s then you’ve probably heard of Pokemon GO by now. But this new craze is drawing in a whole new group of followers on top of the game’s die hard fans too.
One of my son’s has loved the world of Pokemon from the very beginning. But since Pokemon GO was released last week, he’s lept off his computer and headed outdoors to embrace this new version of the game, that’s moved from the computer screen into the real world. By using a smartphone, users can see, chase and catch Pokemon on foot anywhere in the world.
Right now thanks to augmented reality, there are Pokemon waiting to be caught and trained at the local park, outside the nearby pizza shop or the steps of the police station.
Like many new technological things, it can seem like some things will be short lived fads that actually develop into something bigger changing how we live life completely, and I suspect Pokemon GO might just be one of these things.
Pokemon GO and school
I remember when mobile phones were relatively new for kids that schools introduced a policy of getting teens to hand them in each morning and then picking them up at the end of the day. I know that some high schools still have this policy, but I doubt many are able to police it; the process of storing and distributing thousands of mobile phones each day just doesn’t seem workable anymore.
When my sons started high school they were allowed to have their mobile phones with them, but had to leave them in their lockers during class time. That’s largely ignored now, with most teens carrying their phones and keeping them on silent during class time. I think schools have had little choice but to embrace this process given how connected our lives are now through the use of smartphones.
So, as kids return to school, and the location of many Pokemon GO characters is found within schools, I’m intrigued to see how the young people, teachers and school administrators handle this one. There are likely to be some new turf wars as a result of capturing the perfect Pokemon that few schools could see coming.
Making the most of Pokemon GO
So how should adults react to this new App which has quickly raced to number 1 on the download charts since being released in limited number of countries? Here are a few things that I think we should all keep in mind about this particular form of gaming:
- Celebrate that Pokemon GO is getting the kids outdoors. Since the birth of computers, young people have been chastised for spending too much time in their room playing on devices. In the past three days my teenage son has walked 30 kilometres in search of Pokemon, because the game acts like a pedometer. That’s an impressive amount of exercise! So throw them a bottle of water and set them free to hit the pavement with your blessing. As to where they venture, encourage them to stick to areas they feel safe in; how far they go will probably depend on how savvy they are at managing themselves, which I call the “old enough, ready enough” rule of parenting.
- The activity is more fun when shared. My teen has played the app solo, with one other friend, and in a group of six. Like most activities in life, it’s more fun when enjoyed in the company of others. If you are concerned about your child’s vulnerability while out exploring, encourage them to grab a buddy. Not only will they get some exercise, but it’s a great social opportunity too.
- Know that your kids will bump into others while out searching for Pokemon. Computer gaming at home has been around for 40 years and it mostly occurs unseen and behind closed doors. What’s unique about Pokemon GO is that your kids will encounter other people while using the game. My son’s had a ball running into other people on the same journey. We live in an increasingly isolated world, so anything that can break down this isolation gets a big tick from me!
- Battery life is going to be short. It’s likely your child’s phone battery will run out of energy long before they do. Pokemon GO is extremely draining as it uses a phone’s screen, camera, GPS and internet connectivity. Make them aware of this so they can quit playing and return home before they run their battery flat and lose real connectivity with you. And be ready for the request for a battery extender!
- Consider how the mobile data usage will impact on your phone costs. Pokemon are hungry monsters and the app can seriously chew through data. It can be used via wifi but this will severely limit how far they can roam. According to the Pokemon GO database, game play uses between 2 megabytes to over 8 megabytes per hour. Depending on your young person’s phone plan, you may need to set a data limit.
- Ignore 99 percent of the media stories about Pokemon GO. To understand why, you need to know a little about the media cycle. In the first 24 hours all the stories about about Pokemon GO were positive; about how amazing the game is. But journalists can’t keep writing that same story as it’s boring and nobody will read it. So then stories start emerging about kids crashing their skateboards chasing Pokemon, falling off their bikes, or tripping on pavements. Some children even found a dead body. And there will be a thousand more negative stories to emerge because Pokemon GO is a hot topic and media organisations are desperate for content parents will click on. So why ignore them? Because most of them come under the category of “life happens.” Yes your child may trip while going for a walk. Life is risky. But so is sitting in their bedroom constantly leading a sedentary lifestyle with little natural light.
- Harness the experience. Finally make sure when your child returns you connect to learn about their experience. How many Pokemon did they catch? Who did they run into? How far did they walk? This game gives us a whole new way to connect with our kids and demonstrate our love and interest. Maybe even go for a walk with them and let them show you how it all works. It’s amazing what you’ll discover while chasing these colorful characters.
Happy hunting and I’d love to hear about your experiences with Pokemon GO. As I’ve mentioned, I have a teen who loves gaming in general, so if you’re looking for more tips on how to keep it in perspective, here’s 5 things I think you need to know about gaming.
To read more wonderful posts about parenting tweens and teens head over to Tweens2Teen.com and follow Rachel on all of her social channels.