Pokémon GO means making friends is a walk in the park.
Last week I finished reading The Science of Making Friends by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson and entered the social world of Pokémon GO, surprisingly complementary experiences. Dr. Laugeson’s book helps socially challenged teens and young adults form meaningful relationships. She emphasizes that good conversations (and thus good friendships) require having common interests and trading information. While identifying common interests and trading information are everyday experiences for many people, Pokémon GO is an incredible social opportunity for people more comfortable hiding behind devices.
I downloaded the Pokémon GO app at the encouragement of my younger brother. As I was driving us home from a fro-yo run, he noticed a flurry of Pokémon at one of the most popular recreational parks in Denver, commonly known as Wash Park. Curious, we pulled into the parking lot, walked toward the lake, and found ourselves among the 50+ people (primarily male millenials) also catching Pokémon in Wash Park at 10:30 pm.
It was unbelievable. First, I was overjoyed to be experiencing such a quirky phenomenon with my six foot two brother with whom I felt safe. Second, I was amazed at how social it can be to find Pokémon. As we walked through the park, guys would ask us if we caught anything good, and we would perpetuate the conversation with Pokémon GO related follow-up questions. Some guys were in groups, some were in pairs, but quite a number were alone. After several conversations with players of varying social ability, I realized Pokémon GO is a wonderful arena for timid socializers to get their feet wet.
You can’t escape fellow players in the current Pokémon hype, so it’s easy to find those with this common interest in your neighborhood (Look for kids staring and swiping at their phones, walking in unconventional directions, stopping suddenly, or sitting in odd places.) There are infinite Pokémon tips and tricks to be exchanged. Playing Pokémon GO offers the opportunities to meet people, talk to people, hang out with people, and hopefully start a friendship that leads beyond Pokémon related activities.
As with anything, you still to need to monitor your child’s safety. This may include helping your child determine who are safe people to talk to, as well as keeping them away from oncoming traffic. Also, be available to help your child navigate any conflicts that may arise. You may need to help your child problem-solve misunderstandings with other players, manage emotional reactions, and set parameters regarding when and how often it is acceptable to play.* Finally, depending on your child’s age, you may find joining the game yourself provides new opportunities for the two of you to connect.
Have fun, play safe, and try to catch them all!
*If you would like more advice on navigating social conflicts or overcoming executive functioning difficulties, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.