Two years ago, after talking to friends at school, my now 7-year-old asked us to download Pokémon GO onto the old iPad we gave him to occasionally play games. I didn’t know much about what Pokémon GO entailed, but my husband, having grown up playing the original Game Boy game, knew more. He looked into the Pokémon GO app and assured me it was appropriate for our son. I’m not a gamer, and I was never the girl who could be classified as a “nerd.” So, how did I become the mom playing Pokémon GO, on Team Valor, battling in raids for legendary Pokémon?
Learning Their Language
Before he had the game, I would overhear the Pokémon cartoon on the TV sometimes. I had no idea what was going on in the show except that, even though I found it annoying, it seemed kid-friendly and harmless enough. As my son got more into the game, I’d hear him excitedly tell his little brother things like, “I caught a Charmander, and I have enough candies to evolve to Charmeleon!” or “Ooh, this guy is powered up; I need a Great Ball!” It was a different language. I had no clue what any of this meant, and there was no way to ask for a quick explanation; this was not something that could be explained quickly to an outsider like me. Eventually, I found some free time, dowloaded the app, and made my first catch. It started to make sense soon enough, and I understood why he enjoyed collecting all the “pocket monsters” (that’s what Pokémon means). They were kind of cute, it was a little addictive, and I think the monsters’ names are quite clever.
Bonding and Shared Interest
When I told my boys I’d downloaded the game, they were excited to teach me what they knew and to have a chance to be the experts. They thought it was so cool that Mom could enjoy the same thing they did. Of course, I wasn’t as serious about it as they were. I wasn’t about to watch that annoying cartoon or sit there and count my monsters, but me being even mildly interested meant the world to them.
It soon became apparent that to really play the game, you needed to take the device different places and look for more Pokémon; you had to catch ’em all. My husband and I don’t permit the kids to play on devices often, and they aren’t allowed to use them in the car. But, in order for them to play Pokémon GO the way it’s designed, we take special drives during which they can use the tablet to spin Pokéstops and “hunt” for Pokémon. If you’ve never played, all this must sound silly; it sounds ridiculous to me as I’m writing it. Just know that my kids were so happy when I joined them, and it even became a tad competitive in terms of who could collect the coolest Pokémon.
Involvement Means Safety
Even though my husband did his research before downloading the app for them, you really can’t be too careful when it comes to kids and technology. We definitely don’t play every game they have; like most parents, we check on them, make sure we know what’s going on, and use parental control settings. But, playing Pokémon GO with them, I feel confident that I know what this game involves. I also feel like it reminds them that my husband and I are interested in what they do, that we know the technology they use, and that we’re never too removed from it. I feel like the very act of us being involved and interested in this way keeps them just a little bit safer.