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The newest augmented reality game has unleashed its full force on much of the world! “Pokémon GO” is the hottest thing in gaming right now and with features that appeal to everyone from very young gamers to adults; the dynamics of the game are varied if not entertaining at times. The news has been full of stories about the game and cautionary tales about the risks that come along with playing a massive multi-player online role playing game that also interacts with the real world. With children begging to play the game, how do you ensure they stay safe while doing so?
- Take the opportunity to teach children about good judgment. (“You wouldn’t go into a stranger’s house to catch a Zapdos, right Sally? Billy, what are some places that you shouldn’t go, even to catch a Mewtwo?”)
- Talk to your kids about boundaries. Help them to understand boundaries of other people and to stand up for their own personal space (“Nobody has the right to touch you or your things.” “You do not have to talk to anyone just because they are also playing Pokémon.”)
- Use examples of possible scenarios to help children to understand what they should and should not do while playing the game. (“There is a gym at that church down the street. What do you think would be the right thing to do if there was a wedding or a funeral happening when you want to play?” “What would you do if someone told you there was a Pikachu that you could catch, but it was in a place that isn’t safe or that is away from where I can see you/you’re supposed to go?”)
- Set limits. If children are of an age that playing the game without direct parent supervision is appropriate, set time limits and physical boundaries. (“OK, you can play for an hour, but you must stay in the park.” “You can only play on this block after 5pm.”)
- Warn your kids about “Stranger Danger”! Pokémon GO is fun and it gets people outside and exercising! But there is always the potential for those who want to do harm to take advantage of this type of situation. This is why there are restrictions placed on where child predators can live and work. Let your kids know that they should not go with anyone they don’t know. That they should not get into any cars or go into any houses or businesses. The game is designed so that there is no need to enter into a building in order to track or catch a pokémon. Practice situations with your children so they feel comfortable saying the words they need to in order to protect themselves when you’re not there. (“Cleatus, I know you’re 12 years old and you think this is silly, but I want you to pretend that I am a stranger. Tell me what you would say to me if I told you I know a great pokéstop with a lure set and that I can give you a ride there.” “Angelica, you know that just because someone is playing Pokémon GO doesn’t mean that they are your friend, right?”
Pokémon GO is a great way for families to explore their community together. There are risks associated with everything in life, but by exercising caution and good judgment, the fun can continue. Please remember that not all locations are appropriate for children and adults should supervise while young trainers try to “Catch ‘em all!”