Pokémon Go: Too Much of a Screen Time Monster?

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Is your child playing Pokémon Go from the time they wake up to the time they hit the sack? Capturing Pokemons instead of doing schoolwork? Lets take a closer look at this new phenomenon of a game and why it’s keeping some kids hooked to the screen.

7.5 million Americans downloaded this game when it was launched in July. One of the ideas behind Pokémon Go is getting players to become more active. The game uses the clock and GPS in your phone or tablet to detect where and when you are in the game and generate virtual cartoon creatures on your screen called Pokémons. These cartoons can "exist" in different locations, and when one is close by, alerts are sent to your phone to notify you. Then it’s a race to see who can "capture" the creature first!

With this game comes a crucial responsibility to ensure it’s practiced as a safe activity. Children can get distracted just as adults do, stepping off the sidewalk or out into traffic with perilous outcomes. Even on the sidewalk, in the yard, or around pools, accidents can happen. Just as we teach kids not to run after a ball into the street, the same rules apply with Pokémon Go.

A note of caution for parents: even though it’s free to download, players have the option to use real money to buy in-game currency called PokéCoins. For this reason, the game in particular requires vigilant parental supervision.

Screen time is okay in moderation; however it does come with some other risks as well. Using screens too much has been associated with vision problems in children. There are also some populations of children who are at increased risk to develop an unhealthy relationship with gaming including large amounts of time spent playing video games, low social competence, and high impulsivity.

Studies also show that children with problematic gaming can lead to depression, anxiety, social phobias and lower school performance. If you are concerned your children may have a problem, we suggest setting up an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss this.

Here are a few tips for monitoring screen time:

We suggest limiting all screen time to no more than two hours a day, and children under the age of two should be screen-free as much as possible. You want to be sure you are counting all the time spent on TV, videogames, laptops, ipads, cellphones, etc.

During screen time, you want to ensure that your child takes a break every twenty minutes and avoids the evening hours as this can disrupt sleep.

Be sure the games your child is playing do not allow unrestricted access to your credit cards if you have your information stored on your device, such as Applepay.

Help your children come up with screen-free fun activities to ward off boredom and encourage imaginative play. When out of the house be sure to have some books/cards/crayons with you to help children stay entertained.

  • Ensure you and your children are getting 60 minutes of active aerobic exercise daily
  • Use parental controls to ensure content is age appropriate and when possible watch together
  • Family meals, including snacks should be screen-free
  • Keep TVs out of your child’s rooms
  • Be sure to model these tips for your family

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