Fact: I’ve been trying to get my 17-year-old son off the couch for years. Pokémon GO did it overnight. He told me last night, “Mom, I’ve walked 25 kilometers in the past week.”
Shut. The. Front. Door. (Figuratively, not literally. I don’t want to block his pathway to the outside world.) That was all it took for me to jump on the bandwagon. I downloaded the app, created my own avatar, and decided to join my son in his quest for virtual Pocket Monsters. A few days later, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook:
“I know it just started, but I’m officially over the Pokémon thing. Imagine what would happen if we got this engaged with something important.”
On first glance, I felt a bit scolded — like I should donate my Pokéballs to charity, set my Pidgeys and Rattatas free, delete my app, and get rid of everything frivolous or fun in my life. But you know what? The truth is, this game has gotten me engaged with something important: My kids.
My son and daughter are 17 and 20, and we go for walks at 11 p.m. to hunt for Pikachus and collect Pokéballs and hatch eggs and take over gyms and, basically, achieve world domination. I don’t know about you other moms, but this beats harping on my kids to clean up their dishes and feed the dog. I mean, I still do that. But Pokémon has brought balance to my life. Harp, then play — a healthy mix of “bad mom/good mom.”
We’re not going to achieve world peace or cure society’s ills with a mobile app game — I get that. But in my own little world, it’s been a really fun way to play with my kids again. We’re having a ball together, and it hasn’t cost me cent.
On the flip side, I know Pokémon Go has raised some safety concerns, which I’ve talked to my kids about. Even though they’re basically adults, I know how easy it is to get distracted by a game and forget to be aware of any potential dangers involved. Has your family gotten caught up in the Pokémon craze yet? If so, have fun! Just stay mindful of these few things.
4 Pokémon Go Safety Tips
1. Be aware of your surroundings.
Players like to go where there are PokéStops (the blue markers in the screenshot) to get balls and other important items (for catching Pokémon), and Pokémon gyms, where they can place their captured Pokémon or try to take one over for their team.
This might not mean much to you if you haven’t played the game, but just know: These places are fixed locations throughout the world. Literally. Many have been placed in well-lit, well-traveled spots, but some locations may be more appropriate for daytime playing than nighttime.
Teach your kids to stay aware of their surroundings, understand that they will encounter others who are playing the game as well, and to practice safety tips where strangers are concerned. Just because someone else is playing the game, it doesn’t make him or her a “friend.” It’s safest to go out and play the game along with others they know, with friends or other family members.
2. Stop to catch your Pokémon.
Photo by Kainoki Kaede on Flickr
Most of Pokémon Go can safely run in the background, or at least with little attention being paid to it. But when an actual Pokémon appears and it comes time to catch it, you have to pay attention to the screen and flick a ball at it. Sometimes several. This requires attention, and it’s like texting — not a good action to perform while walking or driving.
For the safest way to play: If a Pokémon appears, stop, move to the side, catch your monster, and then move on. Some people have tried to play while continuing to walk around and have run into trees, walked into streets, even fallen off a cliff!
3. Be careful with “lures.”
Photo by Ian Irving on Flickr
A lure is something that’s engineered into the game to bring more Pokémon characters to a location, which, of course, attracts more people — at least the ones playing the game. Many businesses are purchasing and using lures to bring in customers, and it’s actually working quite well for many of them.
Always be aware of the context and situation if you’re near a lure (you can see where lures are on the app). If you follow a lure to a business or otherwise public place that’s safe, you’re okay. But if you or your kids follow a lure to a spot that seems odd or out of the ordinary, be careful. Some people have used lures to rob players of their phones and wallets.
The main thing is simply to stay aware and be smart about where you go when you’re playing the game. The upside is, Pokémon Go is getting people out of the house, off their couches and out for some much-needed exercise. The downside: Bad guys can take advantage of that. Oh, and there are cliffs out there. And streets. So, you know, watch where you’re going.
4. One last pro tip: Pokémon Go and driving don’t mix. Just don’t do it.