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Dear Amanda,

I have two children: a girl in middle school and a boy in high school. They have become obsessed with the PokémonGo app. It has been all over the news about thieves using it to lure kids to areas and robbing them. I feel that I should make them delete the app. What should I do?


A very timely question! For those that aren’t aware, Pokémon is a video game created by Nintendo for their handheld device, the Gameboy. It was first released in 1996 in Japan and has become a worldwide phenomenon spawning multiple movies, TV shows, trading cards, etc. There have been various editions of the game over the last 20 years. Many of our kids have grown up with the figures as a part of their pop culture.

In a nutshell, the game involves the player traveling around trying to capture Pokémon (pocket monsters) that run wild in the world using a special device called a Poké ball. There are hundreds of different breeds of Pokémon with varying levels of power. For more info about the game, click here.

Until now, the game has bpokemon-header2een played on Nintendo platforms with some sharing via Wi-Fi between players. For the first time, the game can be played on your cell phone with a free app called PokémonGo. It is a “live” version of the platform game, only the world isn’t imaginary anymore. The app uses GPS to pinpoint exact locations of your child/teen and generates content for them to interact with. The game was designed to get kids out and walking in the fresh air. Features of the game include “eggs” that hatch after walking so many kilometers, accessories/upgrades you can find and notifications for wild Pokémon in your area. In order to catch the wild Pokémon, players need to track and sometimes even run to get it. Quite ingenious!

One tool that can be purchased or earned is called “lure.” This allows a player to attract Pokémon to a particular location. This is helpful if you are trying to capture a rare breed or several Pokémon in a small area. A side effect is that it also attracts other players to you. This is what is getting the publicity as, yes, those with negative purposes could use this feature to lure unsuspecting kids (and adults) to locations that are not well lit, vacant or off the beaten path. Note: At this time, the GPS feature only shows you where items or Pokémon in the game are. It does not show you the location of other players.

So back to your question….should you make them delete the app? Ultimately, that is your decision as a parent, but this is the approach I would take (and did!).

First, learn a little about the game. It’s actually a lot of fun…sort of a combination of a treasure hunt and geocaching. It’s a great way to get a child or teenager (or adult!) out of the house and exploring their Community. I spent this weekend taking my child to a few local sites that were considered “hot spots,” meaning there were many Pokémon or accessories in the area. We were at a local university, a cemetery (lots of cemeteries are on the map), a local park and a church. All were good locations for kids to go out and walk. One friend actually downloaded the app along with her child and they are playing together while exploring their city.

That being said, it is also an excellent opportunity to talk with your child about the location feature on their device. Do they know what a GPS is? Do they know how to change the location and privacy settings? Do they know their Community and what areas may be unsafe? Do they go with a group and have a plan in case they encounter a stranger? Are certain locations off limits depending on the time of day?

This is also a good opportunity to have follow-up discussions about what they are posting on social media sites and review those privacy settings, especially regarding their location. Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat and Tumblr all have big followings based on this new game. Fun fact: In the five days it’s been on the market, PokemonGo has been downloaded more that the social media app, Tinder and is set to overtake Twitter as well. Click here to read more.

If you are concerned, then it’s time to make a different decision and/or seek out help. As with all social media, we want our kids to use the technology in a safe manner. So talk and connect….it is all about the open conversation.

amanda-new

Amanda Cooper, LCSW

Question:

“Dear Amanda,

I have a teenage daughter who is on social media. I worry about her self-esteem and her comparing herself to other girls on social media. How do I help her develop strong self-esteem in this social media visually driven world we are immersed in?”


Great question! Worrying about our daughter’s self esteem, especially in regards to body image and media, has been around for a long time. For decades, women have been used in print and television media to sell and promote various items and goods. They have been touched up, airbrushed and Photoshopped for years. Social media has certainly taken its place as the primary vehicle for teens to get information and feedback.

First of all, continue to do the good things that parents do to instill good self-esteem:
– Praise accomplishments
– Do things as a family
– Help your daughter build sets of skills and ways to express herself
– Encourage sports teams or other group based activities (band, theater, etc.).

Next, watch how you, as her parents, interact with her:

Moms
– Don’t criticize your own body in front of her, i.e.“Doesn’t my butt look big in these jeans?”

– Don’t wear her clothes. Allow her to develop her own sense of style and image.

Dads
– Teach her to be self sufficient and allow her to learn the same skills that you would a son: change a tire, drive, mow the lawn, play ball, learn sports, etc.

– Remember, that one-on-one time with a father is important!

Food
– Don’t talk about food as “good” or “bad.” Talk about balance and what helps to keep our bodies healthy.

Social Media
– Have a conversation about what your daughter is seeing. If she’s watching the Kardashians on television, talk with her about what she is thinking. Help her to develop a critical lens to translate and decode what is the message behind the ad or show.

– Talk with her about what she is seeing on Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr. Discuss what hashtags her cyberpeers are using with selfies and photos. If you want more information about hashtags, contact Shape the Sky and request our hashtag guide.

– Review your daughter’s social media activities and discuss how to post a positive “brand” about herself.

– Research blogs about celebrities who stood up when their image was sabotaged by Photoshop and how they advocated for an accurate betrayal. Click here for an example of a great blog on the topic.

Warning Signs
If you continue to be concerned or notice your daughter becoming withdrawn, overly negative or changing her sleep, weight or eating habits, contact a professional. An assessment with a good therapist can give her support to get through a difficult time as well as screen for anything that may need further intervention.

As always, keep the conversation going. We can’t help them travel the path if they don’t have a map and a guide.

amanda-new

Amanda Cooper, LCSW

“I’m working with parents that are struggling with their kids’ behavioral outbursts when they take away their device. It’s almost like they have an addiction to their phone or tablet. I’ve heard of internet addiction, but is there device addiction?”

Amanda’s Answer:
This is a very good question and one that comes up often in discussions with parents and professionals.  For the most part, the object of dependence tends to be the cell phone. If you need a demonstration, all you need to do…