I’m not one to jump on the latest craze. And so for the past month I’ve been rolling my eyes anytime someone talks about the game, Pokémon Go. And by “someone” I mean my 6-year-old son.
He borrows my iPhone to play the game, which is like asking me to loan out my left hand. He will not stop talking about the “evolved form” of this, and the “legendary” status of that, about Gyms and Pokéstops and Pokéballs, and on and on. And on. He will not stop talking about it.
My family dragged me out to Durham’s Museum of Life and Science for their Pokémon Go event this past Saturday, and I thought, “Let’s just get this over with.” But I came away from the museum with a newfound respect for the game.
As I write this, my son and husband are out – with my iPhone – to hunt Pokémon. Yeah, we’ve heard the stories about people falling off of cliffs and doing all sorts of crazy things while playing the game. But I’m really okay with him playing it – using common sense and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for screen time, of course.
And I’ll tell you five reasons why.
1. It’s a great way for kids to bond with their parents.
At the museum, I saw oodles of kids, smartphone in hand, walking around with their parents, who had their own smartphones in hand. It sounds like a recipe for ignoring each other, but they were interacting. They were talking about something fun, something other than homework, messy rooms or what’s for dinner. They were sharing a common interest. The museum had more than 3,200 visitors on the day of the Pokémon event – about a third more than on a usual Saturday. That’s a lot of kids and parents having fun together.
2. It encourages physical activity.
I got close to my daily goal of Fitbit steps at the museum’s event. And my son, who has always been resistant to taking an evening stroll, will now go on neighborhood walks with me, with the lure of catching Pokémon. I even overheard him say a particular Pokémon was “only two kilometers away.” I’ve seen an actual increase in my family’s activity over these past few weeks.
3. It’s a great way to get your kids outdoors.
I’m not naïve enough to think that people are planning camping trips and vacations to national parks because of Pokémon Go. But in my experience, I’ve used the excuse of finding Pokémon to get my kid down the road and to the Eno River State Park. The game has Pokéstops in a number of places, including parks, museums, churches, historical sites and more.
4. It’s a common denominator for kids.
My son started first grade last week. He’s a smart and funny kid that occasionally has some social anxiety. Having Pokémon Go (and Minecraft and DragonVale) to talk about with his classmates has helped with his transition to a new school year. I suppose it’s like me talking about the new-ish Netflix series Stranger Things to my co-workers.
5. It’s a moment in time.
I never played video games, but I’ve always loved movies. I don’t remember a ton from when I was 6, back in 1983, but I vividly remember that we had our Sears Betavision VCR around that time, and would rent movies from Visart Video like Mr. Mom, and The Return of the Jedi, and National Lampoon’s Vacation, all of which came out that year. My point is, my little guy may not remember the day-to-day of 2016 when he’s my age, but he’ll probably have some memories of Pokémon Go. And it’s all about the memories.
So there you have it.
I’m not going to be searching for those little pocket monsters myself, but I’m okay with my son playing the game … at least until the next new and exciting thing comes along.
Upcoming Pokémon events:
- Aug. 13 at 1 p.m. – Mebane Pokémon Go Meet-Up – Veterans Garden, Downtown Mebane, 3rd St, Mebane, NC
- Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. – Horizons Unlimited Pokémon Go Event and Movie – 1636 Parkview Circle, Salisbury, NC (behind Knox Middle School)
- Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. – Light Up the Lake with Lures – Bass Lake Park, 900 Bass Lake Rd, Holly Springs, United States
- Aug. 22 at 12 p.m. – Pokémon Go Walk Mayberry – Downtown Mount Airy, Mount Airy, United States