By: Melissa Hilt, Youth Department Assistant Director
If you have gone outside at all in the past week or been on social media you have probably seen and heard a lot of people playing Pokémon GO. Groups of people of all ages can be found all over the place glued to their devices, trying to catch these elusive Pokémon.
Has your child expressed interest in playing the game (or maybe already downloaded it)? There are a few things you should know as a parent to make sure that they are safe, not racking up any unwanted bills, and having fun. Like everything, there are pros and cons to Pokémon GO.
Pro: It’s free!
The app is free to download, however there are in-app purchases available. If you want to make sure your child is not racking up bills, you will want to make sure you have their phone set up to disable in-app purchases.
Pro: It’s fun!
Pokémon GO is fun and as a parent, you might even feel nostalgic playing with your kids.
Pro: It gets your kid outside and moving around.
In order to find Pokémon and visit Pokestops and Gyms, your kids will need to be outside. Yes, some people do it while someone is driving them around, but most people are out walking or riding their bikes. It’s screen time,yes, but it’s active screen time.
Pro: You can play with them!
If you were a kid when the first Pokémon games came out, you’ll likely become as obsessed with this game as your kiddo is. You can go for walks to catch creatures together or take a family trip to a “Pokémon gym” to battle your highest-level finds. It’s a different kind of family fun, but it’s fun all the same.
Pro: It can be educational.
In the game, players can go to “Pokéstops” to get items. Most of these stops are public landmarks like libraries, churches, fire stations, and public parks. You can use these stops as an opportunity to teach your child about their town and surroundings.
Con: It tracks your GPS.
Because the game is connected with Google Maps so that you can locate Pokémon in real time and real places, your child’s phone’s location will be activated.
Con: It leads to distracted walking/driving/biking.
If your child is out biking or walking around with friends trying to catch Pokémon, due to the nature of the game, their eyes will have to be glued to the screen. This makes for distracted walking in roads, riding bikes with one hand, or running to a location with their head down. Remind your child to always be aware of their surroundings and to be stopped before looking down at their phone. They can set it up so that the phone will make a noise when a Pokémon is near.
Con: It uses data.
Since you can’t always play sitting at home using your WiFi, the app does use a lot of data, which is something to be aware of, especially if your child has their own phone and you do not have unlimited data.
Con: It’s being used to “lure” children to secluded areas.
One of the options in the game is to “lure” people to your location to engage in a battle. I have read that children are being lured to secluded areas, and no one wants that to happen to this child. It’s a good idea to set some guidelines with your kids. Let them know where and when they can play, or make sure that you can go out with them so there’s a set of eyes. Kids should be aware of stranger danger and travel in groups if they are not with their guardians.
If you have made it this far, I am guessing your child is already playing or has been begging you to let them play. I know here at the library, which by the way has two Pokestops and a handful of Pokémon inside, we have been seeing kids and adults come through playing the game so we decided we need to have a Pokémon GO Safari!
Join the library’s Pokémon experts on a safari to catch as many Pokémon as you can. We will be casting lures at several downtown Glen Ellyn Pokestops along the way. Just bring your own device loaded with the Pokemon GO app. The safari will meet in the library’s Youth Program Room and conclude at the library. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, as our safari will take us on walk within a few blocks of the library. For children 12 years and younger, adult caregivers will be required to sign permission slips and participate in the safari until the end of the program.