Do your kids have Pokémania? Parents have a lot of questions about Pokémon GO, the latest augmented reality gaming sensation. With some headlines touting the benefits of the game and others bemoaning its risks, it can be difficult to dispel what’s best for you and your kids.
Be aware of physical boundaries
One of Pokémon GO’s perhaps inadvertent health benefits is physical exercise – movement is a critical part of the game as players must physically be near a Pokémon in order to “catch” it. I’ve talked to kids who’ve walked up to seven miles in a single day playing the game – that’s great!
But it’s important for kids and adults to know how far they’re going and to recognize their limitations, both in terms of parental permission and personal fitness. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re unable to get home safely.
Because it’s summertime, it’s also really important for families to take additional safety precautions to avoid sunburn, heat stroke, dehydration and other incidents that are more common this time of year. You can find a list of our summer safety tips here.
Be aware of personal boundaries
Pokémon GO has given families a great excuse to get out and spend time outdoors together. It encourages you to explore places you haven’t been before – if you can do that in a safe way. The inadvertent exercise is an added bonus!
That said, remind your kids to be respectful of others and of the environment they’re in. Your playing this game should not interfere with passersby, and you need to be aware of dangers with traffic or with public transportation. Take time to assess your surroundings and any potential safety hazards – both for you and for others around you.
Don’t play Pokémon GO while crossing streets, in dimly lit areas, in rough terrains that may pose danger, while in the vicinity of public transportation (especially MAX), on private property or, perhaps most importantly, while driving.
Prior to Pokémon GO, we knew that distracted driving was equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. Using your phone for any reason while driving puts you, other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
Distraction is a potential safety issue even when kids are paying attention. If there’s one thing I’d like parents to know, it’s this: Try to avoid moving while you’re staring at your phone.
You don’t need to be walking to catch a Pokémon, so find a safe place to “pull over” and stop before proceeding with the game. You can also adjust your phone settings to vibrate when there’s a Pokémon nearby, so there’s absolutely no reason to be glued to your phone when you’re out and about.
Be aware of geographic boundaries
We’ve all seen recent news headlines about Pokémon GO users being injured or harmed while playing the game. As parents and guardians, we know that there are places where you and your kids should not go. Have a conversation with your kids about these boundaries, and set clear limitations on where your kids can and cannot go to search for Pokémon. There is no substitute for adequate supervision of kids of all ages.
It comes down to this: Just be smart. Please think before –and while – you play. Be aware that people have used this as an opportunity to lure bystanders into unsafe situations. If something seems not quite right or if it’s not a known quantity – if you don’t know it’s safe – don’t do it. There’s no Charmander that’s worth the risk!
The bottom line: Just be aware.
Prioritize your family’s safety above everything else. Despite the game’s tagline, you really don’t gotta catch ‘em all.
NOTE: In addition to the above guidelines, we ask that Pikachu-seeking visitors who find themselves on our OHSU campuses kindly respect our patients, families and employees by staying out of patient care and other restricted areas, and only parking in designated visitor parking.