I’m not sure there has yet been an app that has so immediately caused such a cultural impact as Pokemon GO. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you probably think I’m kidding or exaggerating. I’m not. This innovative app has not only captured the attention of a staggering number of gamers from age five to twenty-five and beyond, but it is changing their behavioral patterns as well.
If you begin noticing young people wandering around in large numbers where you have never really seen them before, chances are they are playing Pokemon GO. If you see young adults strolling about in an oddly disjointed and distracted fashion, looking like they are part of some sort of smartphone-driven “zombie apocalypse,” there’s a good bet they are out hunting Pokemon. If there are kids giving you the creeps with the way they kinda seem to be taking your picture, but not really paying attention to you as they swipe their screens and whoop with delight, don’t fret. They just snagged a super-rare with a Pokeball.
And as peculiar and data-consuming as this new digital culture craze may be, I can see at least six distinct opportunities it gives savvy parents who are willing to work with technology in their kids lives, rather than to simply ignore it or fight against it or helplessly complain about it. So, at only a week or so into the new Pokemon GO era, here are the parenting opportunities I am seeing:
1. Motivation for kids to exercise. This is the most obvious benefit of the first major gaming technology since the intro of the Wii to encourage players to move more. And reports are already in of kids, teens, young adults, and families going for walks or bike rides for hours more than they every have before. WOW! This is a big deal in the increasingly sedentary, screen-centered world in which we are raising our kids. Don’t miss the motivational opportunity.
2. Open door for parents to enter the world of our kids’ interests. Whether your child is five, fifteen, or twenty-five (and still living at home), seizing the opportunity to step into his or her world and really learn about something that captures your son’s or daughter’s attention is so huge – especially when you have actually been invited through that door! Don’t squander this opportunity. Get in there and learn all about Pokestops and incense and gyms and water types and rares and all there is to know about the ever-growing world of Pokemon. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, or even if you think it’s goofy. It’s about connecting with your teen or child in a meaningful way and opening the door of communication.
3. Shared adventure time! What could be finer than joining your pre-teen or adolescent on a stroll, hike, or bike ride throughout your neighborhood, to the nearby park, and beyond? Go for it! Get out there and have some fun together. Get into the thrill of the hunt with your kid, but stay alert for the opportunity to blend in some “real-world” adventure, as well. I mean, you’re already out there together. Make the most of it.
4. Break from the tired lame routine. Not that routines are all bad, or anything. But be honest, sometimes it’s easy to let our lives and our family time fall into a routine that just isn’t making the most of our time. We may be gradually drifting away from meaningful connections with one another and from meaningful activity if we let ourselves default to the same old routine. By nature, Pokemon GO invites player to, well…GO! So, get up. Get out. Go do something different. Go find new places. Embrace the changes with your youth and GO for it!
5. Learning and practicing resource management. I’m not really talking about elements of the game now. I’m talking about time and money. Mark my words, there will be a collective scream in a few weeks when the first round of wireless bills hit since the beginning of the Pokemon GO era. This app is going to eat through data like an Excadrill rips through rock and metal! Hopefully, Niantic (the app developer, and probably overnight gozillionaires) will work on ways to minimize the voracious data appetite this little game-changer has at present. Even so, parents will need to be very proactive in training our kids how to be conscious, responsible, and wise in their use of data. Sitting in a WiFi zone playing endless data-sucking games is no big deal – it’s free. And putting a time frame on how long they can play certain games outside of WiFi is fairly straightforward. But the whole nature of this get out and hunt game is going to change all that. And as parents, we will either need to train our kids how to manage their data usage with this new adventure or we may find ourselves buying lottery tickets or selling our kids’ old rare Pokemon on eBay!
6. Developing critical consumer skills. Being a critical consumer of anything from food to teaching to entertainment to appliances is a really important skill for navigating our world today. And at its heart, being a critical consumer means learning to question and investigate. Using the Pokemon GO app doesn’t just mean investigating the world around your family in search of elusive pocket monsters. It also means asking important questions and being informed and safe in regard to privacy issues. What a great opportunity for us to train our kids in digital savvy and safety!
Happy hunting, all!
And please remember to watch where you’re going at all times. NO HUNTING AND DRIVING, PLEASE!