The Conversation Every Parent Should Have with their Child about Pokémon GO

Children, adolescents and even adults can’t seem to get enough of the new, augmented reality game, Pokemon Go. The phone app has taken over news headlines and swept the nation by storm since launching on July 6. With more than 21 million daily users, chances are that your child has either heard of the game or is already playing it. So, as a parent, what do you need to know about the game and what precautions should your child take when playing it? Our very own, Kevin Borrup, Associate Director of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, joins our blog to answer common questions and offer up safety tips on how to catch em’ all.

Istanbul, Turkey - July 14, 2016: Macro closeup image of Pokemon Go game app icon among other game icons on an iPhone.

As I was headed to a meeting last week I noticed three men, somewhere in the 30 to 40 year old range, standing together outside the building I was entering. They looked up and said, “Let’s get the next one,” and then they were off through the parking lot. A colleague who was with me asked, “What are they doing?” You guessed it, they were playing Pokemon Go. They were dressed for work, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were on a coffee break. Over the last week I have been bombarded with Pokemon Go headlines announcing players crashing cars, getting hit by cars, and even one suffering a poisonous snake bite.

We live in a society of increasing distraction and games like Pokemon Go that are based on augmented reality are poised to become an ever increasing part of that distraction. I am sure that Pokemon Go is a fun game and I have heard that it has gotten kids and adults off their computers, out of their houses, and back outside where some players are walking miles in pursuit of Pokemon. That’s a good thing. However, adults and children should be aware of the distraction caused by Pokemon Go and take steps to manage that distraction. Talk to your kids, whatever their ages, about the following three rules.

Rule #1 – No Pokemon Go and driving. Seriously, hand that phone to the passenger and let them help you. In 2014, over 3,000 people died and more than 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving. This number is expected to continue to rise. The National Safety Council has just released a statement asking gamers to put their personal safety ahead of their scores, before someone is killed.

Rule #2 – Devices down and heads up, repeat this to yourself until it becomes a silent mantra. People who pursue Pokemon need to understand that if they go near or in a road way, they are at-risk. Do not assume that drivers see you (they definitely cannot see the Pokemon), or that they will avoid you. Put your phone down and look to make sure it’s safe before crossing a road. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, teens make up 50% of all child pedestrian deaths. Distracted walking has already resulted in a 25% increase in pedestrian injuries in this age group.

Rule #3 – Look around you using your eyes, not your phone. There are so many situations of risk where making sure that you know what is happening around could save your life. Don’t walk off a cliff, run into a tree (yes, this has happened), or fall off your boat in search of Pokemon. And, if you are an adult supervising children, put that phone down and pay attention to the kids.

Be smart, put safety first!

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