Say Yes to Pokemon GO

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Pokemon GO: It’s a gaming phenomenon like no other and currently, the most popular phone app in U.S. history. Many people are quick to dismiss the game, whether because of long-held ideas about Pokemon (a successful video game franchise from the 90s), or resistance to social media, technology, or kids using cell phones. But let’s face it, Pokemon GO and other apps and games like it are here to stay.

If you’ve avoided the hype, here is Pokemon GO in a nutshell: The app uses augmented reality, which means that through GPS data, sound and video, the Pokemon characters show up in real life—as seen through your phone. You are a character in the game, on a quest to collect all the Pokemons. You do this by collecting Poke Balls at PokeStops, then capturing the characters by virtually throwing the balls at them. Then there are Poke Gyms, where you can train or battle against others. Virtually, of course.

Why should churches, schools, and organizations that work with children and youth care about Pokemon GO? There are a few reasons: First, there are safety concerns that you may have seen in the headlines. More kids are outside, wandering around neighborhoods, staring at their cell phones. Some are on bikes, distracted and wandering into traffic. Let’s not forget about the guys who fell off a cliff while playing the game—adults, mind you.

On the positive side, churches (many are PokeStops or Poke Gyms) are using the game to attract young people. Some churches are scheduling events based around the game, where congregants and non-church members are welcome to attend, and many are publicizing that they are a Poke Gym on church signage. Some churches are offering drinks and snacks for players as a way to increase fellowship. Schools are using the game as a tool for learning to increase social skills and engage challenged learners. And more kids are getting off the couch this summer.

So go ahead, say “Yes” to Pokemon GO. But also share these Pokemon NOs with the children and youth in your church, school, or organization:

  • No trespassing onto private property.
  • Beware of suspicious people lurking around or trying to engage with young users.
  • Do not wander into unfamiliar neighborhoods.
  • Do not disrespect the surroundings, such as when in a church, hospital, library, or museum.
  • For older youth, do not using the game while driving.
  • Do not play the game while crossing streets or in busy traffic areas. If on a bike, they should pay attention to where they are going.