The other day I was driving to a swim meet with my 15-year-old son, and he made me stop so he could catch a Pokémon.
Luckily, it was 7 a.m. on a Saturday and traffic on our street was light. I sat there for a full five minutes while he tried to catch this hard to acquire character. You would have thought he won the lottery when he got it.
My husband is bummed we didn’t come up with the idea for Pokémon Go ourselves — which is making millions for Nintendo. If you haven’t heard of it, Pokémon Go is an app which uses a smartphone’s camera and sensors as well as location-based algorithms to place Pokémon in the real world. Your phone will vibrate when there’s a Pokémon nearby. You take aim and throw a Poké Ball to catch one.
My boys were crazy about Pokémon cards when they were younger. They spent all their money on the cards and kept them neatly organized in binders. It was a phase I was glad to see come to an end. But now it’s back, and my 15-year-old is once again Pokémon obsessed.
I’ve been having an internal debate over whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. He and his friend — who are often glued to their individual Xboxes — have been venturing out on walks several times a day to catch Pokémon. It’s kind of nice to see them getting outside, but they are both glued to their screens while out. My younger daughter was initially critical. She said kids may be outside, but they aren’t socializing. “They are all just looking at their screens wandering into traffic,” she said.
But then she got hooked too. Monday, she dragged her 11-year-old brother out on a walk to catch Pokémon. And she and her 15-year-old twin brother spend every car ride searching for, and catching, Pokémon. I’m even instructed to take different routes so they can find new Pokémon to catch.
There have been news reports of car crashes and people falling off cliffs while playing Pokémon Go. There’s even talk of predators and robbers luring Poké players to secluded locations. So I’ve told my kids to be smart and make good decisions — pretty much the same thing I tell them with everything they do. The risks aside, I like that my kids have something else they can do together — something that helps them connect. Seems like a win win. Plus, it’s completely free.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.