I probably don’t need to tell you that Pokémon GO is a huge phenomenon. I can’t go anywhere without overhearing a Pokémon GO discussion and it warms my heart. Yes, I said it. Seeing kids, families, millennials, people of all ages, genders, and cultures, out interacting and enjoying a game together – it makes me happy! We talk about using technology to bring people together; Pokémon GO is doing this. Friends, families, neighbors, communities – all playing a fun game together.
But what I love most about Pokémon GO is that it gives parents the opportunity to talk to their kids about a number of issues regarding technology. This is a prime opportunity to have some valuable and necessary conversations naturally. Seize the moment!
If you’re still trying to figure out the basics of Pokémon GO so you can have a discussion with your kids, don’t worry. We’ll walk through 5 Essential Pokémon GO discussion topics for your family today. But, let’s have a brief introduction to Pokémon:
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Here are 5 Essential Pokémon GO Discussion Topics for Every Family
Discussion Topic #1: Always Keep an Eye on Your Data and Money
Pokémon GO is free for iPhone and Android devices. Simply download the app from the iTunes or Google Play store. The app is free, but you might find yourself having so much fun playing that you go over your monthly data. You can also spend money on in-app purchases.
This is the perfect opportunity to discuss your family’s policy on data usage and in-app purchases.
Talk to your kids about how much data they have available to use each month. If you haven’t shown your child how to monitor their usage yet, now is a great opportunity to do so. Most kids I’ve talked to appreciate knowing how to monitor this so they can make adjustments in apps that tend to be “data hogs.”
If your child has an Android device:
- Swipe down and tap “Settings.”
- Select “Data usage.”
- Show your kids how to see the device’s total data usage over a given time frame. This normally aligns with your billing cycle. Show your kids how to check the data usage by application as well. Here they can see which apps are using the most data and determine if they need to make adjustments to apps which might be using tons of data.
If your child has an iPhone:
- Go to “Settings.”
- Select “Cellular.”
Some carriers, like Verizon, preinstall apps on their phones that allow you to check data usage.
After everyone in the family is clear on data, be sure to discuss your family policy on in-app purchases. Players can spend real money on PokéCoins. PokéCoins are the in-game currency of Pokémon GO. With PokéCoins, players can then purchase power-ups, extra items, and other enhancements. In-app purchases are found in a number of apps. Make sure your kids understand this and know when/if they are allowed to make in-app purchases.
Discussion Topic #2: Know Privacy Terms of Service Before You Accept
Niantic, the game developer that runs Pokémon GO, fell under fierce criticism for giving themselves access to information most of us would probably want to keep private. That issue was corrected quickly and Niantic issued a statement saying the company didn’t intend for the account sign-up process to ask for full account permissions. Pokémon GO was actually only ever accessing your Google User ID and email address.
Pokémon GO is like most mobile apps. They ask for permission to access information from your phone. Many, if not most, adults agree without giving this a second thought. Many adults sharing their concerns about privacy issues with Pokémon GO are doing so on Facebook. Is it any wonder our kids wonder what all the fuss is about?
Let’s use this as an opportunity to teach our kids to ask questions before accepting an app’s terms. Questions don’t mean we’re going to reject an app. They mean we’re asking because we want to understand what permissions we’re allowing. We’re making an informed decision that’s right for us. Teach your kids to take one moment to look at the permissions before hitting the “Accept” button.
- Why does this app need this information?
- How will it use my information?
- How will it keep my information safe?
If you ever have questions about which apps have permissions to your Google account, you can check that quickly and easily by checking your connected apps and sites.
Discussion Topic #3: Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Pokémon GO is a game that uses an augmented reality setting. It uses the camera on your smartphone. It’s a fun game, but keep in mind while playing that you are looking at the screen of your smartphone. The makers of the game have posted numerous reminders, much like the reminders we see warning us not to text while driving. Know that, while playing the game, you need to follow safe guidelines. Look up from your screen and be aware of your surroundings. Check before crossing roads, be aware of potentially dangerous obstacles like trees, ditches, and steps. Use good common sense.
Real life examples provide the best discussion points. There are already many stories where Pokémon GO players have been distracted and have gotten into trouble or hurt. Read and discuss some of these situations with your child and talk about ways to stay safe while playing Pokémon GO. Here are some great tips on staying safe while playing Pokémon Go.
Discussion Topic #4: Understand Healthy Balance in Life
The goal of Pokémon GO is simple: Gotta catch ’em all. But, there is no time limit for catching them. There are no real life consequences for taking your time or missing a Pokémon. The worst thing that can happen in the game is that a Pokémon escapes a life of living inside a Poké Ball. It’s a great time to talk to your kids about the importance of having a healthy balance in life. Encourage them to have fun while playing, but remember to enjoy all the other aspects of their lives as well.
Discussion Topic #5: Respect the Law and Others
One fun aspect of Pokémon GO is collecting Poké Balls and other items at PokéStops. A PokéStop might be located at a public art installation, a historical marker, or a monument. Pokémon GO has a purchasable in-game item called a ‘Lure Module’ which attracts Pokémon to a particular PokéStop for 30 minutes. Those Pokémon it attracts are visible to and attainable by everyone in the nearby vicinity. Many businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity to boost traffic with the hopes that their small investment will encourages sales. Because PokéStops vary so much, it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about being mindful and respectful while playing at and around various PokéStops. Let your kids know that a few PokéStops are in places that might not be the most appropriate environment for game play. Discuss your family’s thoughts on these.
It’s so easy for kids (or even adults) to get focused on the game and forget they are playing in areas that aren’t open access. Remind your kids that laws apply even when playing in augmented reality. This means it’s not okay to trespass or roam places after closing time. Remind them to respect their neighbors by not wandering into their yard or property unless they have permission, even if they spot a Pokémon there. I know I’ve mentioned the importance of not playing Pokémon GO and driving, but if your child is of driving age, remind them again.
Now that you’ve had these important discussions with your kids, get out with them and play Pokémon GO! I hope the discussions your family has will carry on to other important discussions on technology and social media. If these Pokémon GO discussion topics have opened doors for conversation in your home, keep the conversations going. Please let me know the experience your family is having with the game in the comments below.