Whether you’ve seen it in action or simply been following the news, you’ve likely witnessed the rise in popularity of Pokémon Go. The app, a treasure hunt for animated characters within a player’s own real world surroundings, is getting plenty of media attention.
Pokémon Go has been downloaded more than 500 million times since making its debut in July.
The game has sparked conversations among parents and professionals about its impact on education.
With such a fact rise to fame, knowing the long-term effects of Pokémon Go on kids is impossible. However, experts can apply what they know about other technologies to better predict how to make using new media, like Pokémon Go, a safe and positive experience for parents and kids.
New media and technology change the way we interact in the world, but parents can use these new interactions as learning opportunities.
Rather than forbidding children to engage with new media like Pokémon Go, parents can use digital games and spaces to strengthen their relationships and help children develop more discriminating media skills.
Parents should treat technology like any other environment in their child’s life. They should know who their child is with, where they are and what they are doing.
Parents can set privacy settings to “friends only” on apps. Also consider having your child log onto apps with an email account used only for apps, unconnected to personal information.
Children could encounter scenarios like being asked to meet an online contact in person, receiving a mean-spirited message or deciding if they should go on private property to catch a Pokémon. Parents should have their children practice how to respond safely in those situations before giving them access to a mobile device.
Some parents play the same games as their child and text screenshots back and forth of the Pokémon ‘monsters’ they caught or achievement they unlocked. Others send funny texts or talk about their child’s online posts. New media functions best when it is used as a tool for interaction rather than a distraction or babysitter.
Parents can shape what children learn from new media and technology by intentionally choosing the games kids can play and talking about them together.
They can also let kids be the teacher – admit that you don’t fully understand how to play a game or use a new media and ask your child to guide you.
This approach can give children a sense of accomplishment and gives you both an opportunity to talk in depth.
The role of parents and other caring adults is to ensure that kids are safe, feel loved and have the skills to process and learn from the world around them, whether that world is real or virtual.