The Pokémon Go Phenomenon – should we let our kids catch ‘em all?

07/26/2016

Healthy Living - July 26, 2016
Mark Allen, MD - Acadia Hospital
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Millions of active daily users per day with more people than Instagram and Twitter combined!  Everyone is catching Pokémon these days, except now they’re doing it OUTSIDE as the game requires you to physically walk around town (or anywhere with decent cell service) to find them.  The question remains, is this a good thing for our kids, or is it just yet another way in which society is crumbling in the augmented reality digital age??
 
PROS:
  • Fun and free (at least at first…beware in-app purchases)
  • Awesome social outlet --  make new friends
  • Exercise!  To hatch Pokémon eggs, you must walk at least 1-6 miles.  Then to catch all of the local “fauna,” you must search for them by walking/jogging all over town.
  • Mental Health Benefits
    • Helpful with social anxiety -- talk to people you wouldn’t typically and work together toward a common goal
    • Helpful for depression -- behavioral activation (fighting apathy, lack of energy, and low motivation)
    • Helpful for children with autism
      • Aids social communication
      • Expands flexibility in routine
  • Learn about your town’s history!  Explore your surroundings in a fun and engaging way, and collect valuable poke balls at nearby historical landmarks.
 
CONS:
  • Distraction while walking --  don’t fall down and hurt yourself!  There’s a reason the phrase “Remember to be alert at all times.  Stay aware of your surroundings” is in the load screen.
  • Driving while Poke-ing – just because you can catch ‘em below 25 mph doesn’t mean you should!
  • Digital eye strain and wasting cell phone data
  • Too many weedles and rattatas!
  • Be wary of exploitation via “lures” – not everyone may have the same good intention to catch Pokémon as you do
 
Take-Home:
  • Tip for parents: Go catch Pokémon with your child.  Or at least supervise.  This is a great opportunity for family bonding and can be used as an excellent tool for behavioral modification.
  • Go ahead, join the fad!  With clear-cut physical and mental health benefits (unlike other video games), this new craze is here to stay.
  • As long as you are not trying to catch Pokémon while driving, alone at night, or in inappropriate settings, then you’re safe to enjoy this generation’s most popular game!