Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Mom's Guide to Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO has been with us now in Canada for about a month, and it just seems to get more popular each day. There's also been a number of safety concerns expressed and many memes and much mocking of the players and their obsession with the game. If you're still concerned and wondering if this is something your kids should be playing, please read on for this mom's take.

Now, for the record, I downloaded this app the day it became available. Our eldest was Pokemon obsessed back when he was small, so there are a lot of memories attached for me. Plus I like to keep up-to-date. Boo was not initially interested, although he is a Pokemon fan. He heard so many stories of people staring at their phones and walking into things after it launched in the US, he thought it was a silly game. Until he started playing it with me. Yep. I'm that strange mom who got her son hooked, instead of the other way around. Please tell me I'm not alone? Pokemon GO has a lot of positives, and I believe the negatives have been overstated.

You don't need to stare at your phone. This is a big one, so let's get it out of the way right from the start. In spite of all the stories of people running into poles, walking into a lake, or not paying attention crossing the road, there is no reason to keep staring at your mobile device while you are playing this game. You are looking for three things basically - gyms, Pokestops, and Pokemon. On your screen is a map, and on that map you will see all the nearby gyms and Pokestops long before you come upon them, so a quick glance every couple of blocks will suffice. If you are entering a gym or accessing a Pokestop, you stand in one place, so no worries. What about the Pokemon? Well, your device will vibrate and/or make a sound when one comes into range. At that point you can stop and check your device screen. It's all about common sense.

When you see a gym on your map, just touch the symbol and it will bring up this information, even if it is out of range for you to interact with it. The description tells you where it is, in this case, at the public library. Easy!

Family Time. I have been seeing so much of this. Families out walking together after dinner, engaging the kids in the quest to "catch 'em all." It's motivation to plan a family hike, or simple stroll through the neighbourhood. It provides a goal the family can work on together. And it's fun for everyone. Bonus - if you are like us and have a huge age gap between kids, this is something they can bond over and enjoy together.

Get active.  This one seems obvious, as you have to get out and walk around to find the Pokemon. But even more than that, there is a specific aspect of the game that acts kind of like a pedometer. You can receive Pokemon eggs, either by levelling up your avatar or at certain Pokestops. These eggs are like surprise bags and will hatch into a mystery Pokemon. Which one? You won't know until it hatches! And here's the active part - you hatch the eggs by walking. Yep. While you are walking with the app open, the GPS on your device tracks your distance covered and this is used to hatch the eggs. They require 2, 5, or 10 km each, and you can see how far you've walked in the app. The excitement of adding a surprise Pokemon to your collection is motivation to keep moving. Just 0.3 km left? Let's keep going!

To hatch an egg, place it in an incubator and start walking.

Explore new places. Definitely a bonus, certain types of Pokemon are more likely to be found in certain areas. Looking for a water type? Your best bet is by a river or at the beach. We went to a local beach to find a Magicarp because Boo wanted one. Our neighbourhood has tons of Drowzees (big everywhere in Toronto it seems), Zubats, and Pidgeys. Also Jinx, which is rarer. If we stay in our neighbourhood, we will continue to see the same Pokemon. But if we go to a new park across town, or head to the Zoo, we'll find different varieties. As a family you can plan a series of outings with this in mind. We got a bunch of Sandshrews at the Zoo, but have never seen them anywhere else, as an example.

Learn about your area's history. This one is related to the last one. Pokestops have been created at landmarks, like statues, murals, churches, community centres, and historical plaques. Not every Pokestop you encounter will have educational value, but you can learn some local history, and maybe take a closer look at public art you've just walked by in the past.

Meet people. I love this one. While you may think of Pokemon Go as inherently non-social, as it ties you to your mobile device, it actually leads to many fun encounters. Boo and I recently paid a visit to our Optometrist to get his glasses fixed, and then we decided to wander around the area to catch some Pokemon. We saw so many other kids, teens, and families doing the same thing, and even joined a gym battle with some teen boys. Everyone was saying hi and comparing notes. Likewise at Edwards Gardens last week. There was amom and her two kids there, playing for the first time. Boo taught the kids some tricks, and I had a lovely chat with the mom. Pokemon GO can bring people together and maybe even spark up new friendships. It may even help shy kids break out of their bubble.

A photo posted by Deb Coombs (@raisingmyboys) on

Maxi is a huge Pokemon GO fan, because it means extra long walks for her.

A photo posted by Deb Coombs (@raisingmyboys) on

These Drowzees are all over my neighbourhood.

What do you think? Have you played? Are there other quesstions you have that you'd like answered? I can certainly try to help you out!

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