Susan Lee discusses pros and cons of Pokemon Go – the new tech craze that has hit this summer.
Getting kids outdoors can be a challenge, particularly when they would rather play computer games or watch tv. So why not take the computer games outdoors with you? There’s no excuses for getting fresh air with the abundance of mobile consoles on the market but sitting in the park playing on your mobile phone probably defeats most of the reasons for getting outdoors. The majority of gaming devices offer no real incentive to run about and play, explore our environment or interact with the natural world.
Pokemon Go – What Exactly IS This?
Pokemon go is a much anticipated addition to a well known gaming franchise. Perhaps taking on board the need to get kids outdoors, this is a game that actually needs to be played outside on the move. The game is relatively simple, and can be played from a free app. The player has to explore their neighbourhood, walking far and wide in search of virtual Pokemon creatures, pokestops and training arenas.
My kids love geocaching, using GPS to search for hidden treasure boxes. Why not use this visually appealing app with cute little Pokemon to encourage the kids to get outdoors this summer?
My three youngsters aged 5, 7 and 8 instantly fell in love with the cute little characters and were keen to start their search. Unlike geocaching, there was no need to drive to a set location to begin our search. Pokemon seem to appear pretty much anywhere. All we needed to do was head out into the garden and the streets surrounding our home. We quickly collected our first few Pokemon, found a pokestop at our local church, and a training arena at a local monument. There were even Pokemon on our local beach. The kids were loving their new toy and happy to walk around our neighbourhood all morning going nowhere in particular.
We were outdoors, getting exercise and fresh air and even visiting a few local places of interest. I’m not sure we were really learning much though. And the kids were absolutely oblivious to the world around them. Our beach is always a favourite place to explore. Usually my three adventures would be climbing rocks, digging in the sand, collecting shells and chatting animatedly in their imaginative games. Today they walked in a straight line, eyes fixed to the phone screen studying their virtual world that they could see but not touch. The game had taken us outdoors, but was actually deterring us from experiencing the natural world around us.
Pros and Cons Of Pokemon Go
Our Pokemon hunt took us down the high street. Our sleepy village doesn’t get much traffic and it’s just as well. When a Pokemon appeared in the middle of the street, the kids unwittingly stepped off the pavement in pursuit. They were so enthralled by their game and fixed on capturing their prey that they forgot all about looking and listening and staying on the footpath. they were so engrossed in their virtual world they seemed completely unaware of the approaching traffic. Now I was scared.
I’m all for getting kids outdoors and happy to incorporate technology into our outdoor adventures. Pokemon was fun, and it did get us outside as a family. It’s an activity we can all do together. Unfortunately the app does very little to promote outdoor play or exploration, It actually distracted my children from their usually running, clambering imagination fuelled exploration. The game also raised safety concerns. I’m never sure about kids with mobile devices or headphones near roads and today I saw first hand how easily my kids became so involved in a game that they walked straight onto a road in front of traffic.
Gaming is never going to replace the need for traditional outdoor play. Kids need to run wild, climb trees, build dens and discover real bugs and animals in their natural environment. Kids need to be free to use their hands and eyes and ears to explore their world and learn, play and grow. Computers have their uses, but there is so much to see and do outdoors, we really don’t need gaming apps and virtual animals to make outdoor play fun. Outdoor play is already fun with limitless opportunity to discover new things, learn new skills and spend time together in the real world. Forget Pokemon, tomorrow we are going in a bug hunt!
By Susan Lee for Rain-shine
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