Pokémon GO Tips for Parents
Pokémon GO is a global phenomenon getting children and adults walking around outside with their smartphones hunting creatures.
It seems like the computer game parents have been waiting for – one you have to GO outside to use.
However, as well as encouraging healthy exercise, there are some safety concerns over children playing the game.
The NSPCC has issued advice for parents and has written to Nintendo UK saying the app “appears susceptible to being hijacked by users who wish to harm other players and as such raises fundamental child safety concerns”.
The game uses the phone’s GPS location feature to lead players to Pokémon using built-in maps.
Before the app launched in the UK, the charity says: “there have been numerous accounts of children being placed in dangerous situations because of the geo-location feature – in one instance it is reported that armed robbers lured teenagers to a particular spot using your game and in another that players are taken to a sex shop”.
Despite these concerns, millions of parents are likely to come under pressure by children wanting to play Pokémon GO, so what can be done to help kids play it safely?
Understand the Game
You’ll need to know your Poké Balls from your Pokémon Gyms to understand what kids will be doing when out playing Pokémon GO.
Pokémon are ‘pocket monsters’. They only exist inside the game – but you have to track them down in the real world outdoors. When one is spotted nearby, the app gives an alert and you use the phone’s camera to look in front of you – and the Pokémon is seen superimposed on the real life scene on the phone screen – called augmented reality.
You catch them by flicking Poké Balls at them. The captured creatures are logged in the player’s Pokédex. Once you have reached a high enough level in the game you can visit Pokémon Gyms in your area where you can train the creatures and take part in competitions. PokéStops are other places you can visit to collect items for the game.
Before letting kids out on their own with the app, join them for their first Pokémon adventure – and play along yourself if you can.
It Is Free… But…
The game is free to download and play – but there are tempting in-app purchases available to help players reach higher levels. Check the settings on your child’s phone and store account to prevent these extra charges or limit them to avoid a bill shock later. A boost of 14,500 virtual Pokécoins will set you back £79.99 in real money.
The game only works on smartphones, so be ready for pester power from children insisting they need a costly upgrade this summer.
The app also uses mobile data—so keep an eye on this mounting up and going over spending limits on your account or pay-as-you-go top ups.
A child will probably find a couple of Pokémon close to home, but will need to go some miles to keep finding more. Talk to children about how far you are happy for them to go while playing, and specify areas you want them to keep away from.
You can get very immersed in the game and forget about real dangers around you. Make sure children understand road safety dangers – and make sure they concentrate near traffic and look out for physical risks, such as cliff paths.
The NSPCC says there have already been cases of children being lured into unsafe places.
The Pokémon maps mostly follow real life pavements and paths, but the creatures can appear to tantalisingly close, but in graveyards, someone’s garden or on other private property. Make sure kids know where they can and can’t go.
At the moment Pokémon is a single player game, but PokéStops and gyms, and the location of the creatures themselves will bring people together to certain places in your area. Some of the strangers your children will meet will be other kids, but the game is also popular with adults. The NSPCC warns “you never know who they might meet”.
Theft is another risk, with reports of phones being snatched from players as they turn up at known locations in the game.
Is It Age-Appropriate?
You’ll know best whether your child is old enough to play the game and also understand the risks. Make sure younger children are accompanied by an appropriate older child or adult while playing.
Playing the game uses the phone’s screen, GPS tracking and mobile data – and that runs the battery down far quicker than normal use. So that kids can always get in touch with you when they are out and about, consider investing in a special spare battery pack to plug in if the phone goes dead. Stress that this is to keep them in touch with you – not just to extend playing time!
When the game starts up the first screen warns players: Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings. Niantic and The Pokémon Company who make the game have told players they take safety seriously.
They advise players to be aware of their surroundings especially when exploring unfamiliar places. They suggest playing with friends and family, and respect local laws and the locations visited.
NSPCC: Pokémon GO: Our open letter to Nintendo UK,
Apple App Store
Pokémon GO app game play
Niantic and The Pokémon Company
WebMD Inside Health News: The Pokemon GO Pick-Me-Up