Pokémon Go: What Parents Should Know

By Adam Holz
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
So what is Pokémon Go? And how do we, as Christian parents, think wisely and discerningly about it?

“Dad, Dad, can we download Pokémon Go?!”

If you’ve got children and have a smartphone, there’s a good chance you, too, have been asked that question. If you’re like me, when my 9-year-old first asked it, I didn’t have much idea what he was talking about. I knew this mobile video game was based on the two-decades-old Pokémon franchise, but that was it.

I assumed this fad would slip off his radar.

I was half right.

It is the latest fad. But it did not slip off his radar. Or anyone else’s. In fact, Pokémon Go has morphed into a cultural tsunami that’s sweeping up players young (and not so young) around the world.

So what is Pokémon Go? And how do we, as Christian parents, think wisely and discerningly about it?

Pokémon Go is a new breed of video game called “augmented reality.” Players walk around — looking at a virtual map on their smartphones that corresponds with the real world — to capture the magical, imaginary creatures known as Pokémon (short for “Pocket Monsters”). Once players snare enough digital critters and gain sufficient experience, they can challenge others at virtual Pokémon Gyms (locations where players gather to battle).

You can survive middle school!

Middle school is like a whole other planet—roller coaster emotions, high drama, strange physical changes and more! But you can survive without killing your child. Dr. Kevin Leman offers practical advice and humor to help you equip your tweens with the skills to navigate conflicts, fluctuating emotions, technology use, peer pressure and more.

Get your copy of this incredible book with a ministry gift today.

The game is pretty simple.

The question of whether (or how) Christian parents should let their kids play is more complex, because there are real pros and cons.

The pros

On the plus side, Pokémon Go encourages active movement. It’s not a game your child can sit on the couch and play for hours on end. Instead, it requires walking through the environment around you, looking at the map to identify where Pokémon might be lurking.

The cons

But that upside is connected to the game’s biggest downside, too: Wandering around staring at a phone isn’t the safest activity. In the two weeks since the game was released, we’ve heard stories of people walking off cliffs, getting trapped in a mine, and having a car accident. Unsuspecting players have even been lured into areas where they’ve been assaulted and robbed.

Pros and cons 

Another glass-half-full, glass-half-empty aspect of the game has to do with how relational it can potentially be … or not.

After I downloaded the game to research it for Plugged In, I was flabbergasted to discover how many people — perhaps 50 or so — were playing at a local park. I interacted with more than a dozen folks over the course of a two-hour walk. So there’s potential for community and relationship with other players who are out and about playing the game. On the other hand, the idea of young fans interacting with random strangers out on the streets should give parents considerable pause, too.

Likewise, Pokémon Go offers potential for parents and kids to bond over the game. My son and I have enjoyed playing together as we’ve hunted Pikachus and Charizards. It’s given me a chance to cultivate my relationship with him on his turf.

That said, my son tends to become so engrossed in the game that my presence mostly becomes about playing safety cop to make sure he doesn’t wander into the street. In that sense, Pokémon Go shares the same potential problem that all well-designed video games have: the tendency to become compulsive. Just because a player is walking outside doesn’t mitigate the possibility for unhealthy (or even addictive) engagement in the quest to “catch ’em all,” as Pokémon’s slogan encourages.

It should also be noted that Pokémon’s overarching worldview is a magical, vaguely Eastern-inspired one paired with nods to evolution (creatures can, essentially, become bigger, better versions of themselves throughout the game). That worldview is definitely one that parents of young fans should be aware of and talk about, especially if Pokémon Go spurs interest in diving deeper into the myriad other Pokémon video games, TV shows, movies and trading cards out there.

Pokémon Go represents an intriguing paradigm shift for video games. For parents, though, it’s just the latest opportunity we have to think wisely about how our families interact with entertainment media. This challenge is new, but our job remains the same as it’s always been: setting wise, informed, appropriate boundaries for our children.

Pokémon Go offers families an opportunity for exercise and relationship … but only if we pay attention together to wise boundaries and guard against becoming so engrossed in an imaginary world that we lose sight of the real one.

Need more help navigating the obscure world of Pokémon Go? Download our Pokémon Go Guide for Parents that highlights discerning discussion points to help you decide what is best for your kids.

Additional Resources

Download: A Quick Pokémon Go Guide for Parents

Video game review: Pokémon Go

Vodcast: What Parents Need to Know About Pokémon Go  


Copyright © 2016 by Focus on the Family.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Adam Holz
Adam Holz

Adam R. Holz is the happy director of the Plugged In team at Focus on the Family.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.