5 Things Parents of Children with Special Needs Should Know About Pokemon GO

pokemon go

You have no doubt heard about the latest smartphone game that is sweeping the nation in popularity and usage. Pokémon GO, available on iPhone and Android, is a brand new game that has children and adults alike looking to ‘catch them all.’ However, there are some very basic facts that parents need to know about this Pokémon GO to keep their child safe and avoid unnecessary problems.

First, to give those with absolutely no idea about this popular game, Pokémon GO is an app-based game that involves the player going around capturing ‘monsters’ in the world. Kept within high-tech traps called Pokéballs, the game involves improving your captured animals to compete against those of other trainers. The game’s original version was presented by Nintendo for the Game Boy, with different games made available on various video game consoles since the brand's launch. One important component that makes this game so popular is its use of "Augmented Reality" (AR) – the result is the magical creatures that populate the game appear transposed over the real-world using your phone’s camera. As a result, the game packs these fun beings into users’ real lives… perhaps only at the expense of your phone’s battery.

When it comes to Pokémon GO, parents should know

  1. The game requires/encourages real-world roaming and movement. Unlike other Pokémon games where the player navigated the world on a screen, this new game requires constant movement to find and capture new animals. This focus on movement is very important for parents of younger children to understand as the game may encourage bad behaviors, including distracted walking on sidewalks and roads, perhaps now traveling further from home than ever before. It can also lead to others not paying enough attention to see your child or take part in dangerous activities that impact your family. One player led by the game to find a water-based animal (the game likes to tie monsters to their ‘natural environment,’ with plant-based ones often found in fields, water-based ones in rivers, etc.) jumped a fence and ended up finding a dead body. While such a shocking discovery is unlikely for your child, it’s important to note the game’s use of GPS does not restrict users to public areas. Another important fact to be aware of is that certain animals only come out at night, which may cause some players to go out without the safety provided by daylight.
  2. The need to move and capture animals in the game may prove a barrier for children with physical and/or emotional challenges. If your child has issues with mobility, the game may provide a mixed bag of positives and negatives. On the plus side, being able to add fun to a walk in a wheelchair can be a great way to have fun as a group. However, not being able to freely encounter and find Pokémon can be disheartening for those with challenges associated with mobility. In that same vein, Pokémon GO’s reliance on a careful finger swipe/flick may prove challenging to children with special needs. We recommend parents sit down and watch their child’s interaction with the game to see how things go and coach/encourage accordingly.
  3. One particular in-game tool can draw animals to a specific location. As such, crowds can build around popular restaurants, stores, etc., to try to catch the Pokémon as they show up. While this has been a particular boon for certain businesses, it has also been reported as a malicious tool by those with bad intentions. Police in Missouri reported that such a ‘lure’ was used to rob Pokémon GO gamers who showed up to a remote location and it is not too much of a leap that it could be done to draw young players as well.
  4. The game does offer in-app purchases. Like most other games, there is an ability to buy in-game perks using real-world money. Be sure to keep an eye on purchases to ensure your child is not running up a bill in his or her pursuit to catch them all.
  5. While it can encourage physical activity, the game’s repetitive nature can cause aches and pains. Beyond just getting a sunburn walking around looking for Pokémon, the constant strain of looking down and holding a phone, as well as the swipes involved, can lead to cramped hands and more. Make sure you encourage breaks for your child to avoid these problems.

With those things said, we encourage you to check out the game and see if it represents a fun opportunity to bond with your child over a simple, extremely catchy game! Do you have other tips or suggestions you feel parents need to know about Pokémon GO? Let us know on our forum or on our Facebook Page today!