Parents and Pokemon: 3 tips to play safely

A recent post on social media commented: In the 1990s, kids went outside to play. In the 2000s, kids stayed inside to play video games. Now kids go outside to play video games!

Of course, this is referring to the new Pokemon Go game. Kids and adults alike are downloading this app that superimposes the alternate reality of the Pokeman land and it’s creatures over the real life view from your phone’s camera. In this digital scavenger hunt, as you walk around your neighborhood, the mall or pretty much any other location, you can “capture” Pokeman creatures on your cell.

“Any time something new like this comes out and changes the way our kids interact with technology and the world, there are pros and cons,” says Jessica Saunders, director for Dayton Children’s Center for Child Health and Wellness. “This one has some incredible merits – it gets kids outside and walking, sometimes for miles at a time. That’s great for growing bodies. But it’s important that parents also help kids keep their wits about them and not get lost in the game.”

The experts at Dayton Children’s have some tips for having fun while still staying safe.

  • Play as a family. Pokemon Go appeals to a wide audience and is meant to be played as a group. “Engaging the whole family builds a bonding experience and shared communication about a mutual interest,” said Sarah Phillips, child psychologist. It also allows parents to reinforce basic safety rules, encouraging kids to be aware of their surroundings so they can avoid dangerous situations, such as running out in the middle of the street.
  • Plan your play. One challenge is that the game will take the player long distances – sometimes in places that are off limits. “Choose to play in large public parks or spaces with few roads. Be thoughtful about the landmarks that you visit,” says Saunders. “Some places such as churches or cemeteries are considered sacred and not a place for gaming. On the flip side, it can be a great way to explore your community and interesting parks you may have never known of before.”
  • Take a break. As with all online games and technology – we all need a break. Even though kids are getting outdoor exercise, it’s still screen time. “Too much screen time can lead to a lot of difficulties. It affects our attention level and our impulse control. Kids can develop trouble sleeping, have a hard time with academic performance, or struggle socially, emotionally or behaviorally,” says Phillips.

As with any game, it’s important parents are involved in their child’s activities and providing the proper supervision and guidance to make it fun and safe.

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This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email: newsroom@childrensdayton.org.

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