If your kids are obsessed with Pokemon Go, or begging to
play, here is what you need to know as a parent.
Are they paying
attention to where they’re going?
First, this smartphone game uses augmented reality in real
locations, and your kids will need to go to these places to capture Pokemon.
(That, by the way, is short for ‘pocket monster.’)
Players collect virtual items and participate in
“Pokemon battles.” Yes, it’s screen time, but it is also great
motivation for kids to get off the couch and outside again. And with all of
this walking, be ready for complaints about sore legs!
However there are a few concerns with location-based games
such as this one. There is the challenge of walking while staring at a phone
screen, which happens with Pokemon Go.
The risk goes beyond a few bumps and bruises when
players find themselves near roads, rivers and high places. There have already
been accidents, some serious, involving players too caught up in pursuit of
capturing the adorable monsters.
Where are they going?
The most desirable Pokemon destinations are called Pokestops
and Pokemon Gyms, and they are often found in public or community places such
as parks and churches. Because of their popularity, this is where your child
will most likely encounter other players, both children and adults.
And when you talk to your children about being aware of their
surroundings, don’t forget to discuss private property. Police are reminding
the public not to trespass, as some Pokemon Go players are wandering off
paths and over fences. There is also the consideration of where it might be
inappropriate to play Pokemon Go. Locations such as the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum in Washington DC and Arlington National Cemetery are appealing
to players to not hunt Pokemon on their sites.
should also know that strangers with their own agendas can influence where your
child goes to find Pokemon. Shopkeepers can attract customers by activating
“lure modules.” These in-game items cause more Pokemon creatures to
virtually appear in a specific area, and thus “lure” players hunting
them to their real-life stores.
This technique could also be used for nefarious reasons. Missouri
police have reported that armed robbers used Pokemon Go to draw potential
victims to secluded locations.
Who will they meet?
Pokemon Go is a social game and interaction with other
players can be great fun. Fellow gamers might spot the recognizable Pokemon
zombie walk or finger flick Pokeball shot — telltale signs that someone is
playing Pokemon Go. Friendly conversations will likely involve which team they
are on, which Pokemon they are trying to catch, and what battle strategy works
But also keep in mind that your child might fight a
stranger’s Pokemon pet in a battle or take over a Pokemon Gym location from
another player that is there. Friendly competition can get emotional. Consider
discussing “stranger danger” tips and your own family’s
rules on interacting with people they do not know. It could help, too, to play
the game in pairs or groups to ensure safety.
How private is the
information players share?
If your child has already downloaded and installed Pokemon
Go, the initial release might have receivedaccess to your child’s Google
account. Pokemon Go has pushed a fix for this, which requires you to install
the latest update, sign out and then sign back into the app. Even with this
fix, there is still a lot of information that is collected by the Pokemon Go
app, including your child’s age, email address, locations they have visited,
websites they have been to, and more.
Be aware that there are third-party apps related to Pokemon
Go, and many of these also collect a lot of your information. These
supplementary apps include chat communication add-ons and knock-off versions.
Users should be especially careful with these unofficial apps, as some of them
contain malicious trojans, adware and malware.
How much will this
Pokemon Go is a free app, but there are in-game items that
are very tempting to buy. Many of them, like the Pokeballs that players throw
at Pokemon, can be collected for free every few minutes at PokeStop locations.
You will also get some of these virtual supplies each time
your character goes up a level, but you will likely run out of that supply
before leveling again (especially if you are bad at throwing those Pokeballs.)
Collecting these resources can become a tiresome chore, which makes the appeal
of buying them all the more tempting. Why walk a few blocks to a PokeStop to
collect three Pokeballs, when you can instantly purchase 20 Pokeballs for 99
To play Pokemon, your child will need a smartphone that has a
gyroscope. Look for an iPhone 5 or greater, or an Android with an
operating system of 4.4 or higher. Ideally players also need an LTE or a 4G
data connection. A Wi-Fi only device will also work, but it may lead to
frustration since there will be tempting Pokemon and PokeStops just outside of
The good news is that the game is not eating up
data plans. Players only use on average between 2MB to 8MB of data per
hour playing Pokemon Go, and there are plenty of tips to help players
use even less data. T-Mobile has also recently announced that it is offeringunlimited
data for Pokemon Go for a year.
Pokemon Go does quickly drain smartphone batteries, though,
especially when players use the camera view. An additional phone charger or
battery pack could help extend trips to the park to hunt Pokemon. But then
again, having to charge your child’s phone more often, and using that to limit
screen time, could be one of the best fringe benefits of Pokemon Go.