Why Families Should Play Pokémon Go Together

The hottest virtual game has real-life benefits. How parents and kids can play with a purpose.

11:00 AM

Author | Kevin Joy

Beyond the thrill of the quest to catch 'em all, other curious benefits have emerged from the worldwide Pokémon Go craze.

Among the potential perks: an excuse to get moving and a means of easing anxiety and depression.

SEE ALSO: What Science Says About Letting Your Baby 'Cry It Out'

It also has the potential to boost family bonding.

That's because the new augmented reality game, in which players use the GPS and camera of their smartphone or tablet to make the virtual critters appear onscreen as if they were present in real life, is no armchair pursuit. To locate the Pokémon, users are required to explore their own surroundings.

For some parents, that could be a welcome shift from the solitary (and stationary) nature that characterize kids' typical technology habits — and a chance to converse while working together to nab characters such as Pidgey, Rattata and Squirtle.

"In regards to screen time, parents and kids are often at odds with each other," says Nicholas Helmstetter, M.D., a third-year resident in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan.

A shared hour or two spent walking around the neighborhood on a Pokémon hunt — even if the phone itself is a focal point — can be constructive. 

And for moms and dads that came of age when the Pokémon franchise first came to prominence 20 years ago, the nostalgia factor might offer common ground.

Notes Helmstetter, himself a Pokémon Go player: "Doing things like this can add another level to the relationship; learning from each other. It's a two-way street."

Users young and old, meanwhile, can always benefit from more exercise.

Ensuring a good time

Along with having fun have been concerns over safety.

Adult supervision, Helmstetter says, is key to help younger Pokémon Go players from wandering into unsafe spaces or traffic — and avoiding stranger danger.

It's important, he adds, to remind kids to stay alert when walking and to be mindful of private property. Older children might be permitted to travel in groups.

Since PokeStops (locations where players get items to lure Pokémon) and gyms (spots where trainers can virtually battle one another) could be almost anywhere, users shouldn't proceed to places that appear desolate or dangerous under any circumstance.

Although the likelihood is rare, they also should keep watch for suspicious or criminal activity tied to Pokémon Go usage and immediately tell an adult if needed.

An element of courtesy, depending on the location of a player's latest "capture," may apply.

At C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, where Pokémon Go has become a popular diversion for patients (and some parents, too), signs recently went up reminding hunters not to take photos when other people are in the frame due to privacy concerns.

Says J.J. Bouchard, a digital media manager for the Child & Family Life team at Mott: "We're trying to embrace the Pokémon craze while taking steps to be sure people are being safe and respectful of others." 

A last warning: It doesn't hurt to emphasize that the game should never be played while driving.

More Articles About: lifestyle Children's Health Safety First Aid & Safety
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories family smiling togehter
Health Lab
Ketogenic diet helps 4-year-old live seizure free
Last year, a young girl experienced up to 40 seizures a week. Today, after nearly a year of working with the ketogenic diet team at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital – overseen by a pediatric neurologist and dietitian – she’s celebrating six months of seizure freedom.
woman listening to different shadow windows of people saying different things about kids
Health Lab
Parents of young kids increasingly turn to social media for parenting advice
A C.S. Mott Children's Hospital health poll found most mothers and over two-thirds of fathers of children ages 0-4 use social media for questions on topics like feeding and behavior challenges.
human organ for transplant
Health Lab
Findings shed light on how a pediatric heart surgery complication impacts heart transplant survival
Patients who experience this condition following the Fontan continue to have a high risk of death from the time they’re waitlisted for a new heart through receiving the transplant, according to a 20-center study led by Michigan Medicine. And one specific complication called cyanosis – or experiencing less than normal oxygen blood levels – was associated with worsened survival.
mom in hospital bed holding newborn baby
Health Lab
RSV shot protects infants during peak season: What parents should know
For the first time, families will have a long acting option to protect infants and high risk toddlers from a common respiratory virus that sends tens of thousands of children to the hospital every year.
mother baby helmet head shape
Health Lab
Study shows baby helmets yield high success rate
Research from the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center looked at the effectiveness of the Michigan Cranial Reshaping Helmet and what age it was best to prescribe them at.
SOS in the brain red words and blue drawing of a side face and brown background
Health Lab
What school staff should know about seizure first aid
When it comes to seizure first aid for students with epilepsy, it's essential for school staff to be prepared. Learn the signs of a seizure and what actions you can take to provide immediate assistance.