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I Thought Pokémon Go Was a Waste of Time. Then I Played It With My Kids.

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By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Before my 15- and 19-year-old kids roped me into a Pokémon Go adventure, I was pretty darn sure the game was a waste of time, another way for kids to bury themselves in screens, and a potentially dangerous new craze. As it turns out, I was enjoying a nice ride on my high horse.

To all the parents out there, I know it’s easy to dismiss Pokémon Go as the latest fad at best and dangerous technology at worst. But if your kids play it, there’s real opportunity to connect with them—and train some Pokémon while you’re at it.

It’s pretty good exercise.

The four of us (we also brought our dog, because you have to bring the dog on a hunt) walked around our neighborhood for a half hour.

It feels like a digital scavenger hunt.

In that half hour, we caught a Rattata, Drowzee, Exeggcute, Horsea and Venonat. Venonat is simultaneously adorable and horrifying.

Side note: All Pokémon names are autocorrect’s worst nightmare. You can also rename your Pokémon. We didn’t do it, but a lot of people are getting really creative with it.

 It’s a great way to talk to kids on their level.

For our kids, face-to-face conversations with us can get intimidating in a hurry. Walking shoulder-to-shoulder, as we did during our Pokémon hunt, was a much less threatening environment. And when kids don’t feel threatened, they share more. Our therapists at Stenzel Clinical often take walks with their clients for this very reason.

My kids and I talked about the game itself and how it has sparked more outdoor activity. We talked about the dog and just life in general. Nothing major, simply the all-important check-in.

IMG_7241Kids should know the dangers that come with playing the game.

Namely, it comes down to safety. The thought of people playing Pokémon Go while driving or kids walking around in the dark while playing is a scary one. If you’re a parent, be sure to set ground rules with the game if you haven’t already.

It’s mindblowing how quickly the game invaded public consciousness.

I can’t remember any game capturing the attention of non-gamers like Pokémon Go. Just about every kid with a phone is playing it. My kids are walking more, hanging with friends more and meeting more new people. And adults are doing the same thing.

It was a humbling reminder to stay interested.

I counsel people for a living. It’s what I love to do. And yet, when I saw my kids buried in a new game, I judged it and dismissed it. The walk we took and the conversation we had reminded me to keep learning about my kids.

My renewed pledge: Instead of fearing technology my kids adopt, I will get involved in what they love. If you do the same, it may surprise you just how fun it can be. Go team Instinct!