Pre-teen years are hard. Brains are re-wiring. The appeal of toys is going away, but the ability to go wherever and do whatever has not yet arrived. Every year, as we enter summer, we do a massive room cleaning with the boys. This year, our twelve year old decided he was ready to sell all the Nerf guns. Sigh. I’ve watched his hobbies become increasingly more screen dependent, so I began to encourage finding a hobby.
What about fishing?
What about building stuff with wood?
You could read more!
I hate to read.
After selling all the Nerf guns, he ordered a video camera. His hobby will be youtubing. Sigh.
The camera hasn’t arrived from China yet, but never fear! As we wait, the most exciting thing to ever hit planet earth has launched itself into 2016: Pokemon Go!
Now, really. I don’t have a bunch of bashing to do here. It isn’t an awful game. It has actually gotten him out on his bicycle and running all over. Fresh air for the win! The allure is obvious. Take a video game, and inject it into real life. Kids (and adults) are running all over town to catch imaginary creatures. …which brings about a couple of concerns that I have seen, and you may want to be aware of.
- Bicycle Safety. Have you noticed the increased bicycle traffic in the last few days as the frenzy for this game has hit? Have you seen the kids with one eye (or both eyes) on their devices, with no eyes left for the road? Make sure you are talking to your kids about the danger of this. Just like driving a car, this can be disastrous. Talk through pulling to the side of the road and figuring out what to do next. Make sure they are wearing a helmet.
- Stranger Danger. First of all, just understand what the app is and that when your kids say they are “just playing Pokemon” that they could be running all over the place. Are you comfortable with them doing that? Do you know who they are running around with? Does this need to be a game your kids only get to play when with an adult? Are they committed to putting safety first, even if it means missing out on a capture?
- Lures and Beacons. Because this is a game that works with GPS tracking, it is possible for the less well-intended sort to lure people into a trap. The game is designed to be able to post a beacon when you find a creature, so that others can find it easier….but that means players can post a beacon and lie in wait. This is actually really scary and has already led to crime.
- Awareness of Surroundings. Besides bicycle safety, just running around (especially in the dark) with your eyes glued to a device can lead to injury.
- Courtesy to Others. Some stores are posting warnings on the doors. Their might be a character in their store, but that doesn’t mean they want people running in to play. Make sure your kids know to stay out of businesses they don’t belong in.
Bottom line. Be informed about what your kids are doing. Know who they’re with. Know where they are. …and it doesn’t hurt to revisit basic safety conversations, even when you think they’ve learned them.