As we’ve all been bombarded (whether happy to be or not) by the Pokemon Go movement, many questions linger in our heads after considering its implications on our kids and their relationship with screen time. We consulted with contributor and therapist Alisha Bennett, LMSW about her thoughts on the matter, and what these implications could be.
With over 75 million downloads, Pokémon Go is the newest craze with both adults and children. As a parent, it’s one more app on your child’s phone that contributes to their total amount of daily screen time. According to CommonSense Media, tweens (children between the ages of 8-12) have an average of 4 ½ hours of screen time per day and teenagers have an average of 7 hours per day, which is more time than they spend in school! As the top grossing app in the US, Pokémon Go is bound to create quite a spike in our children’s screen time averages.
So what impact is Pokémon Go going to have on our children? Pokémon Go encourages children and adults to be out exploring different places in the hopes of catching new Pokémon. Supporters of the game argue that it encourages children to get outside and be more active. While it’s great to get our children outside and moving, I wonder if this will outweigh some of the negative effects of the game.
On the other side of the argument are the concerns about safety. Every parent hopes that their children are safe when walking on busy city streets, going through intersections, and checking out new places. Unfortunately, there have been reports that children are entering neighborhoods that they would not normally go to, and instances of people getting mugged while playing. Instead of focusing on their surroundings, children are focusing on their phones and the nearest Pokémon that they can catch, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous situations.
In addition to the obvious safety concerns that this game brings up, there is also concern about the negative social and emotional effects that the game may be encouraging. As mentioned earlier, if children are spending more time on their phones with Pokémon Go, how much time are they actually spending socializing and developing their emotional intelligence?
If you think about the break down of a child’s average day, here’s what it looks like during the school year:
- School Day: 6 ½ hours
- Screen time before Pokémon Go: 4-7 hours
- Sleep: 8-10 hours
- Homework: 1-3 hours
Now, we must consider the additional time children are spending on Pokémon Go. If you add those hours up, how much time is left over for real socialization? What are the consequences if they are substituting some of the above time with time spent on Pokémon Go? These are all important considerations, and below are some quick tips for how you can support your child in safely navigating this new game.
- Remind your child of basic safety precautions when they are out walking. These may be as simple as looking both ways before they cross the street, waiting for the walk light, etc.
- Talk to them about staying alert. Remind them to stay aware of their belongings and to regularly take their eyes off their phones and to look at their surroundings
- Limit them to particular neighborhoods. Establish boundaries for where they can and cannot go, regardless of how many Pokémon there are in particular areas.
- If they are adding more screen time to their daily lives with Pokémon Go, limit the screen time that you would normally give them at home to spend on other activities.
- Have a conversation about the effects of being on their phone, rather than conversing and interacting with their peers in person.
- And lastly, teens should never be playing while driving.
Alisha Bennett, LMSW is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy, with locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She has over 8 years of experience working with children, adolescents, young adults and families in the New York City public school system. She can help with various special needs including learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, ODD, Autism and ASD. Alisha also works with adopted children and children of divorce/separation. Alisha helps children build the skills they need to be more successful in school and have improved self-esteem day to day. Her approach is positive, encouraging, and builds self-awareness. Alisha practices from CBT, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Social Thinking concepts. She believes if children can, then they do. If children are not demonstrating particular behaviors, they need support developing their skills.