Playing the augmented reality game Pokemon Go with children may help parents spend more quality time with their family and live a healthier life, a new study has found. Researchers from the University of Washington surveyed and interviewed parents who play Pokemon Go with their families. Some parents said the interactive and mobile nature of the game made them feel better about engaging in that type of gameplay, as opposed to more sedentary forms of “screen time.”
Many set limits to prevent kids from becoming so absorbed in the game that they ignored cars or other real-world hazards, as well as responsibilities. Those included setting time constraints, requiring kids to do chores or homework first, shutting down the mobile device if kids did not give it back when asked or parents staying in control of the smartphone while the family played.
Yet many parents – particularly moms of boys, fathers of girls and parents of teenaged children – reported spending more quality time with their children as a result of playing Pokemon Go together and talking more than usual, both about the game itself and about other things in their lives.
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Parents also appreciated how the game motivated both them and their children to go outside and exercise in ways that were convenient and fit into their lives, as their children displayed newfound enthusiasm for walking rather than driving to dinner or playgrounds.
For some participants, the game led to walking thousands more steps per day, and one father reported that his 11-year-old daughter had lost 12 pounds.
“Location-based augmented reality games are pretty different than sitting in front of a TV or playing a typical video game, so we were interested in the way kids and their parents were sharing those experiences together,” said Kiley Sobel, a doctoral student at University of Washington.
“People still don’t really know how to build tech that works well for families, so when this game came out of the blue and really caught on, we wanted to look at what its ingredients for success were,” Sobel said.
In follow-up interviews with families who had begun playing Pokemon Go together, almost all parents had safety concerns about the game, from children not paying attention to where they were going to interacting with strangers.
To mitigate those concerns, many parents imposed limits or rules on the gameplay, such as only allowing older children to travel a certain distance from the home and requiring younger children to only play on a parent’s device.
However, many parents reported net benefits from the overall experience, including having a shared interest with their children, particularly at ages when communication can become tricky.
Since the Pokemon franchise was first introduced in 1995, some parents had also grown up with the characters, which heightened their interest in playing the new game.
The parents’ prior knowledge about and experience with Pokemon characters often led their kids to view them as valuable “experts” who could teach them.