A Child psychologist discusses the benefits of Pokémon GO for kids on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, along with helpful ground rules (great for all kids) that parents can lay out for maximum enjoyment
I was doing a parent talk last month for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and some of the parents shared that they are really concerned about the launch of Pokémon Go. While they have read widely about how children/adolescents with ASD have benefitted in their social skills from this game, the parents were still filled with a lot of apprehension about how to manage the implications that come along with the game.
All these concerns are understandable: besides being addictive, this game frequently involves going outside, which can make parents uneasy with their kids out of sight.
To address some of the common concerns, here are some suggested strategies that parents of children/adolescents can take note of:
1) Establish rules and boundaries before your child starts playing the game
How long can your child play the game each time, and at what time of the day? It will be best to put this agreement on paper and be very specific in setting these conditions. For example, “To play Pokémon Go only after finishing homework and from 7-8pm every weekday”, or “Only allowed to go out of the house to catch Pokémons on weekends before 8pm”.
Other areas to consider setting boundaries will be:
- Making in-app purchases
- Must be accompanied if playing outdoors
- How far to go when playing outdoors
2) Build awareness of surroundings and risks
There are many accounts of people knocking things over, falling down, or even falling into water while searching for Pokémons. Since these dangers are so common, it will be necessary to accompany your child when they are out catching Pokémons.
It will be also good to teach your child to organise their moves, eg. not looking at the screen when walking or head must be up to look at the environment when walking. This may be a good chance for your child to learn to be more observant of the environment.
3) Teach rules in the social environment
Before going out, it will be important to educate your child about some of the rules in the environment. For instance, look out for signs that say ‘Private property’ and ‘Don’t enter’, and remind them they can’t go into other people’s houses or gardens, even if the door or gate is unlocked. Also, “No catching Pokémons in shops and eating places”. In this way, there will be plenty of opportunities for your child to learn about the rules in the environment.
4) Teach possible dangers of interacting with strangers
While it’s great that your child is getting more opportunities to interact with different people, its important to teach your child to identify and avoid social danger eg. following someone to quiet places or sharing too much personal information. You can list down the do’s and dont’s in social interaction. For example, Do discuss about the game, share name and age. Don’t share where you live, and don’t follow the person to other places.
5) Get in on the fun!
Lastly, it’s great if parents can join in the game as this will not only allow you to understand what’s happening and anticipate any issues that may arise, it will also create boundless interaction opportunities with your child. Have great fun catching Pokémons together!