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Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go has swept the globe and transported us back to the nineties – when Pokémon cards, video games, apparel, etc. was like precious gold for both kids and adults alike. 

Now instead of collecting playing cards people are downloading the app. Which might explain why you've seen everyone from your teenage son to your elderly neighbor glued to his phone and swinging it around in front of him like a metal detector that just found buried treasure. For those of you that have not downloaded the app out of curiosity or because you HAVE to catch 'em all - here's how the whole thing works:

 

 

Similar to collecting the various Pokémon cards, the app is built on the idea that players are "trainers" and must catch the 700-plus Pokémon that appear in the world around them. Using the phone's GPS tracking and a version of what's called "augmented reality," players actually see (via their phone's camera) the Pokémon in the real world. When one of these little creatures appears, players must tap on it and then try to flick one of their Pokéballs on it to catch it. 

That's basically the gist of it. If you are still mystified by this description or the draw of this insanely popular game, chances are you have a young person in the house who could give you a very detailed, passionate explanation of why the game is so enticing. Which is why we've decided to put together this blog post: Because parents need to be aware of...

  1. How the game works
  2. The safety hazards of playing
  3. The amazing health benefits if used correctly
  4. The available opportunities to use this app to do some good in the world

Stay Away From Cliffs!... And Other Keys for Keeping Kids Safe

Ditches, sidewalk curbs, oncoming traffic, and, yes, even cliffs, become very real hazards when your eyes are glued to your pokemon-go-loading-screenphone in pursuit of that allusive Squirtle.

We probably don't need to tell you that kids are susceptible to tripping and falling. But taking a tumble isn't the only danger that comes with not being alert or aware of one's surroundings. 

The following are several ways that you can let your kids enjoy the game while keeping them safe. These are based on real-life stories of people, both young and old, finding themselves in dangerous situations because they didn't follow common sense safety precautions.

1. Don't Let Your Kids Go Out Alone

It may seem like an obvious instruction. But, imagine the following scenario: you saw your pre-teen can go out by herself just in the cul-de-sac to catch Pokémon and, because she's more wrapped up in the game than her surroundings, she ends up out of sight. It's a real possibility and one that parents need to be both aware and diligent about. A good alternative is to make playing the app a family activity!

2. Keep Your Eyes on Your Surroundings

Again, this should be a no-brainer. But, even the app has a loading page that specifically warns players to stay alert. If you are playing the game with your kids, make sure that you remain the alert adult and leave the hunting to the little ones. Or else, you might end up with bruised shins (or worse), like the waitress from North Carolina who took a tumble by tripping on a cinder block while trying to catch 'em all. Also, the app has a vibrate functionality - so you can leave your phone in your pocket and the app will vibrate when a Pokémon is nearby.

3. Only Hunt in Public Places… & Stay Away From Police Stations

One poor aspect about the app is it's not always great with locations. There may be Pokémon in inappropriate places like cemeteries and museums, as wel as private property and, yes, even in police stations. We probably don't need to explain the dangers of having your kids search for cartoon critters while trespassing or traipsing through a police station. Designate certain areas that are safe to play the app - like your backyard, the neighborhood, the playground/park, and maybe some local trails.

4. Don't Catch 'Em After Dark

We hate to say it - but people have been put in serious danger while playing this game. Several people have been robbed by others who have actually used the app to bring players to a certain location and then robbing them (this is done by placing a "gym" - or special location in the game - at a designated spot and then waiting for players to show up). Clearly, the chances of running into this kind of trouble are greatly increased when you play the game after dark. Which is why its important to not only have designated playing places but also designated playing times. 

5. No Moving Vehicles

Don't be that guy. You know, the one who crashed his car while hunting for imaginary critters. It might seem like fun to pack the family into the car and go hunting around town, but make sure that the driver doesn't get so enthralled with the game that he/she endangers the family. Also, this tip should go for bikes, scooters and skateboards - especially since two kids on skateboards catching Pokémon reportedly fell off a cliff California. Don't be those guys either.

6. Turn Off Augmented Reality

Perhaps one of the most entertaining aspects of the game - seeing Pokémon in the real world - can also be the most dangerous. By turning off augmented reality, you can catch the creatures while avoiding things like tripping on sidewalks and impeding traffic. Once this feature is turned off, you are able to play the game by sitting down and using it much like a normal video game (it will still use GPS, but interact less with the real world). 

Catch ‘Em All & Break a Sweat: Using the App for Exercise

We hope it comes as no surprise that our favorite aspect of this game is the potential to use it for exercise. We've emphasized it before, but the best way to get kids to break a sweat is to make it FUN! 

What could be more fun than building up your digital Pokémon collection while getting in some great cardio? 

Below are some ways that Pokémon Go is equipped to keep your kids fit & healthy - both physically and mentally/socially (just read the incredible article about the autistic boy from New York who is coming out of his shell thanks to the game). 

 

Supplement Kid-Friendly Exercise with Pokémon Go Cardio 

It is recommended that kids get 60-minutes of exercise a day. Use half of this time to get in muscle-building exercise either through sports or family fitness time. The other thirty minutes can be used to play the game and get in some great cardio while having fun. We don't recommend that you use the entire hour on the app, but that you supplement other exercises. As one woman who used the app for exercise writes, "In reality, catching Pokémon on my walk to the gym is much more satisfying than catching them instead of it."

Go the Distance! Exercise Based on Mileage Rather Than Time

One great thing about the app is it functions based on the distance you've gone, rather than the amount of time you've used it. This is really good for exercise, because it promotes getting in mileage rather than just walking in circles for an hour. If your kid is training for a Fun Run, this is a great way to mark progress and get you and your family feeling fit enough to walk/run a 5k! Plus, as a DailyDot article explains, since the app works based on distance "there's always the possibility that you'll find a Pokémon if you go a bit further." This is incentive enough to push kids to get in that extra mile!

With Great Fun Comes Great Responsibility: How to Use the Game for Good

Catch Pokémon, stay safe, break a sweat, and... give back? That's right, there is also the potential to use this app to do some good in the world, and here's how:

  1. Walk for Charity: Using the Charity Miles app, you can track the distance you walk, run or bike while raising funds for a good cause. Similar to the philosophy behind Fun Runs, Charity Miles donates funds to a chairty or non-profit on your behalf based on the distance you go!
  2. Walk Shelter Dogs: Animal shelters around the country are asking Pokémon Go players to walk dogs while they play. This is an awesome way to make the game more than just a game. Get the family together, pick up a pooch, and have fun while giving some love to a furry friend. 
  3. Donate a Photo: Similar to Charity Miles, the Donate a Photo app turns your pics into donations. While you're out exploring a local park or other scenic venure while on the hunt for Pokémon, take a pic and turn it into a cash donation by uploading it to Donate a Photo. A picture a day raises $1 for a charity of your choosing!

How Are You Monitoring & Utilizing the Pokémon Go Craze With Your Kids?

Let us know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter!

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