Look Both Ways Before You (Pokemon) GO!

Before there was Pokemon Go, parents worried about Nintendo Game Boys. Remember those? People were sure we’d lose a generation of kids who fell into manholes while using these mobile gaming devices. Sony Walkmans? Same thing—pre-teens blasted New Kids on the Block into their headphones and barely made it around their own block because they couldn’t hear cars coming.  And even before electronics, concerned patriots in the 1800’s worried about the rise of—gasp!—books. People openly questioned if children would survive into adulthood since they were prone to getting lost in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, failing to see they were about to walk right into a newly whitewashed fence. In other words, Pokemon Go seems to be just the latest distraction from the world….or is it?

Augmented Reality (AR)

If you haven’t downloaded the Pokemon Go app yet, you should—if for no other reason, just for educational purposes.

Educational purposes?! Yes.

Pokemon Go is the first mainstream ‘AR’ game, and there surely will be others that our kids are glued to, so we should learn more about AR.  But also, we can and should model good behaviors while using our phones, and what better way to do this than with something our kids really care about?

Be a Model (or Look Just Like One)

As mothers, we are the most important role models our kids will ever have. Remember when your preschooler’s block tower fell down, and she grumbled, “Oh, %$&*!” in the same tone of voice you use? Yeah. The same principle applies for being a safe driver, pedestrian, and user of Augmented Reality.  What we do in front of our kids becomes their definition of normal.  Here are some tips on modeling top safety behaviors while playing Pokemon Go:

Location: Together, look at a map and strategize where the safe places to play are, and then go there. In the middle of Kapiolani Park? Sure (unless there’s a rugby match going on). In the Kaimana Beach parking lot? Surely not.

Distractions: The sounds included in the game are really fun, but are not necessary for playing, so turn them off!  Also, no one should play with ear buds in. As an ‘experiment’, orchestrate a scene where Dad is playing Pokemon Go with his ear buds in, and you and your keiki sneak up to tickle ambush him—the point being, he was not aware of his surroundings. Discuss what else could happen if your keiki are too engrossed in the game, and are not aware of their surroundings—think stranger danger, speeding Priuses, etc.

Safety in Numbers: Join in the fun and use the buddy system. Your FitBit will thank you, as will your keiki. If you can’t go, don’t ever let your child wander around solo trying to catch that rare Snorlax; unfortunately, there are strange adults luring lost children with “tips” on Pokemon Go. Again, a little pre-planned theatrics can be helpful. Ask someone who your child doesn’t know to offer Pokemon advice in exchange for you both following him somewhere secluded, like a public bathroom. Ask your child, “Should we go with him?” to see what the answer is, and then discuss.

Gotta Track ‘em All (your kids, that is): If your kids play Pokemon Go with a buddy other than you, use a tracker app in your child’s phone to digitally see where they are, and where they’ve been.

Visibility: Going out at dusk? Great!  Don your Pokemon Go outfits. Let your keiki choose what you both will wear, and discuss why. Aim for light colored clothes, perhaps a hat with reflective tape, or a special glow-stick necklace? The brighter, the better.

On the GO: Pokemon while driving?!? YES. Absolutely (with a catch). Model the behavior of handing over your phone when you get in the car, and asking your keiki to take over throwing Poke-balls, or answering the phone call from Dad. Discuss (but do not allow) the silliness of trying to ride a bike or skateboard while playing Pokemon Go.

Remember: Our behavior matters more than words.

Got other tips? Please share them with our community!

About the blogger:

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Cora Rillero Speck is the Trauma Injury Prevention & Outreach Coordinator at The Queen’s Medical Center. She is the mother of a 3rd grader who LOVES Pokemon Go, and a loss mother to a stillborn baby daughter. When not playing Pokemon Go, she can be found installing car seats, fitting skateboard helmets, giving out bicycle lights and reflective pedestrian safety vests, and presenting on older driver safety. Cora runs (8 marathons, 5 as a mama), surfs, hikes, and enjoys Pilates with friends. She loves to travel, and is looking forward to traveling to Iceland, where she hopes to capture some elusive Pokemon endemic to the Arctic Circle.

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