In case you haven’t noticed, Pokemon Go is rapidly taking over the world. My 12 year-old son and I have started playing it together and it has been a fantastic addition to our summer. Here’s why.
1. Bonding time. Last summer, our entire family got Fitbits. Super-competitive beings that we are, we all tried to have the highest number of steps at the end of the day. My son and I started taking after dinner walks to get more steps in, and during our walks he would talk.
I learned about school, his friends, his thoughts on current events and more. This is the kid who usually responds to questions about his day with, “OK” or “I don’t remember.” It was amazing to spend time with him and get a tiny glimpse into what was going on in his brain and his life.
Pokémon Go has given me that same opportunity this summer. Now, after we tuck his younger brother into bed, the two of us set off to find wild Rattatas, Pidgeys, and Butterfrees in our neighborhood. And we talk along the way. As he gets closer and closer to being a teen, he is spending more time in his room, playing guitar or Face Timing with friends. Which is normal, but we are definitely getting less of our own face time with him these days. When we’re playing Pokémon Go it is just the two of us and our Pokedex.
2. Nostalgia. As the mom of two boys, I have weathered many different obsessions. There was the year we knew everything about dinosaurs. For that brief period of time, I could reliably tell you which dinosaurs were vegetarians and which ones you would not want to run into in a dark alley. This was followed by Star Wars which gave me ability to answer just about any Star Wars trivia question out there.
Then there was Pokémon. That one strikes around first grade and your house is full of Pokémon cards and conversations about which Pokémon evolves into which. My favorite–the mushroom shaped Foongus. Unsurprisingly, my repeated cries of, “There’s a Foongus among us!” eventually began eliciting groans rather than laughs.
The Pokémon cards left the building this year and landed in my 6-year-old nephew’s grateful hands. While my nephew was thrilled, I was a bit wistful about another piece of their boyhood slipping away. Pokémon Go enables me to recapture a bit of that little boy period, and my Pokémon knowledge from the first Pokémon craze is definitely working in my favor. I do worry at times what previous knowledge is being displaced in order to accommodate this data. I suspect its algebra. I’m okay with that.
3. It’s a great opportunity to talk about safety. As my boys began dipping their toes into the digital world we had several conversations about what they were allowed, and not allowed to do. We wrote an internet use contract, and required each kid to share their passwords with us until their bar mitzvah. (As kid #1’s bar mitzvah gets closer, I’m hoping I can extend this one a bit further. Not likely. But a girl can try.)
Since we’ve started to play Pokémon Go, we‘ve had several conversations about the importance of being aware of your surroundings at all times. There was also a report on the news about pedophiles congregating at Poke Stops. That fact alone was enough to scare the living daylights out of them.
For now, we have agreed that all Poke Stops and Pokémon Gyms must be visited with adult supervision. Later this week, we are planning to cruise around town in my minivan and hit up all the Poke Stops in the neighborhood. This may in fact be the nerdiest/lamest sentence I have ever written, but I for one, am excited. See–reason #1–bonding time.
Only time will tell whether Pokémon Go is a passing phase, a menace to society, or another benign time waster like Candy Crush and Angry Birds. No matter how things shake out, I will be grateful to Pokémon Go for the gifts it has already given us this summer.