Has the Pokémon Go craze hit your house yet? If your kids are wandering about the house or garden holding their smartphone aloft and talking about catching Pokémon, then it’s time for you to learn some more about this game. Here’s What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go and how you can keep your kids safe when they are playing the game.
What Is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon, are Pocket Monsters, which users can capture and battle with. The game was first developed by Nintendo back in the ’90s, but this newest version, Pokemon Go, is a free to play location-based augmented virtual reality game which has been developed for iOS and Android smartphones. Compatibility with tablets is not guaranteed.
Pokémon Go uses the GPS and camera of devices to allow players to capture, battle and train their virtual monsters, who appear on screen as if in the real world.
To say it’s popular, is an understatement – the download rate has been phenomenal since it’s launch mid July! And not only kids either – adults who might have played the original versions of this game back in the 90’s are big fans too.
And it can’t be all bad, right, if it’s encouraging online game playing outdoors in the real world?!
Developers Niantic say in their Terms of Service that you must be over the age of 13 to sign-up. “If you are the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 13, you (the parent) are agreeing to these terms on behalf of yourself and your children”.
Parents of children under 13 will have to authorise their child’s account, by verifying that he/she are the parent of the child, and consent to the creation of an account for the child. If consent is not received, the child account will not be authorised.
Also if a parent wishes to subsequently delete their child’s authorised account, you will also need to submit a request to Niantic.
The age rating is 9+ on the Apple Store due to mild fantasy violence.
How To Sign Up
There are 3 ways to sign-up to play. Users must have an account with any of the following before registering to create an account :
- Google Account*
- Pokémon Trainer Club Account – you can create one of these
- Facebook Account
*There had been some concerns initially that using your Google Account to sign-up on iOS was giving Pokémon Go full account access. However, Niantic recently released a statement that Pokémon Go can only access basic Google information, specifically Google ID and Email address. This article from Gizmodo covers this quite well.
Do familiarise yourself with the privacy terms though before registering.
How To Play
Firstly you must create an avatar, and for safety purposes your children should not use their real name.
You will then see a map showing your location, PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms. PokéStops equip players with eggs, Poké balls and potions. Pokémon Gyms are where Trainers can train and compete and are usually public meeting spots.
There are different types of Pokémon, with different moves, abilities and stats. The aim of the game is to capture as many Pokémon and to win as many ‘gyms’ as you can to become the Pokémon Master.
As you walk around your area, your smartphone will vibrate to alert you to a nearby Pokémon, and you can then throw Poké balls to try capture it.
What Do You Play Pokémon Go on?
How Much Does it Cost?
It is free. However there are in-game purchases, and you can easily rack up some expenditure. Be sure you have in-app purchases switched off for children playing this game.
Pokémon Go on YouTube
There is an official Pokémon Go YouTube channel, but since the game is so new, there is limited instructional videos on the channel yet, but promises of lots to come. The Pokemon official channel also has a few videos.
There are some YouTubers who are currently making videos about playing Pokémon Go:
Tips for Parents if Kids Playing Pokémon Go
#1. Play It Yourself
The best way to familiarise yourself with the game (or indeed any game), is to play it yourself, or with your child.
#2. The App Uses Location Tracking
Parents should be aware that the app uses location tracking, so GPS must be on for users to play. This can identify where your child is playing the game.
#3. Set Guidelines About Exploring Places
The app encourages players to explore places in the real world in the quest of finding Pokémons. If you are going to allow your child to play this game, then discuss some guidelines and rules for where they can explore while playing the game. If kids want to leave your neighbourhood for example, then perhaps you should accompany them.
Also the game map can lead players to private locations, so ensure your child know that they are not allowed enter private property without permission.
#4. Remind Them Of Real World Safety
Talk to them about potential injury that can occur when playing the game – they must keep their head up and be aware of surrounding traffic and dangers when playing.
There has already been many game-related injuries reported, such as a teenager walking on to a highway and 2 men falling off a cliff, which has led to CBS News reporting that doctors have issued a warning about how to avoid Pokemon Go injuries.
#5. Know Who They Are Meeting?
By encouraging exploring different places, there is also the potential for meeting strangers – again discuss guidelines and rules for your child’s play, which should also include joining social groups or meet-up groups, which are fast becoming popular.
Multiplayer is not yet available, but if they are playing with their friends, ensure you know exactly who they are with.
#6. Turn Off In-App Purchases
Although the game is free, ensure you turn off in-app purchases, so your child doesn’t rack up a serious game bill.
#7. Keep An Eye on What They Do
It’s good practice to keep an eye on them as they are playing. Sporadically check in with them while they are playing, to ensure you are happy that they are adhering to your define rules and guidelines.
#8. Control how, what and how long
As with any other computer game or online activity, the trick is to control how they use it, what they do with it and how much time they spend playing it.
#9. Monitor Power Usage & Mobile Data
The game uses a lot of power, and can eat up your mobile data allowance when playing outside – so monitor your child’s usage if they or you are on a limited mobile data plan.
#10. It’s Not All Bad!
The game encourages players outside, exercising, which is a plus for an online game, and it does encourage social interaction. The battles are pretty mild and cartoonish, which makes a change from the normal extensive array of violence/battle games available these days!
Over to you! Have you or your kids discovered Pokémon Go yet? Any further tips to share?