Families bonded over 'Pokémon GO,' researchers find

Last summer’s “Pokémon GO” phenomenon had several side benefits for parents who joined with their kids to try to “catch ‘em all,” according to new research from the University of Washington Information School and Human Centered Design & Engineering.

UW Today writes that parents reported increased exercise, more time outdoors, and more opportunities for family bonding, thanks to the game in which players capture digital creatures from the Pokémon franchise on their mobile devices by finding them in real-world locations.

The research team’s findings are detailed in a paper to be presented at the upcoming CHI 2017 conference. At the height of the summer 2016 craze, faculty and students conducted surveys and interviews of 87 parents of children under age 18. They wanted to learn how parents played along with their kids and what benefits and problems they perceived.

Some parents worried about adding to their children’s screen time, and about kids becoming so absorbed in the game that they ignored cars and other hazards. Many parents, however, reported spending more quality time with their children and opening up lines of communication.

The UW Today story notes that researchers found parents and children playing the game in a popular outdoor mall in Seattle well after sunset.

“It was clearly way past everybody’s bedtime,” said Jason Yip, an assistant professor at the UW Information School and co-author on the paper. “We also noticed that the parents were playing Pokémon as much as the kids were, and we’d never seen that before with Minecraft or any Nintendo game. So we knew there was something going on here that was different.”

Read more about the research on UW Today.