What parents need to know about Pokémon Go mobile game

By Internet Matters Team on

The launch of Pokémon Go earlier this month has captured the imagination of millions, inspiring many to take to the streets to play what could be seen as the future of gaming – ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR) – effectively merging the real world with the digital world.

To help parents get a better understanding of this new phenomenon taking the gaming world by storm we outline the key information you’ll need to know.

Pokemon-GO-image

Since its launch in the US, Australia and New Zealand earlier this month, it has topped the Apple App store charts with 7.5 million downloads as of the 11 July in the US alone. The game has been well received by a number of reviewers, however safety concerns have been raised about the potential risk that some could use the app to cause harm to children.

With the launch of the app scheduled in Europe and Asia, here are some facts about the app that you need to know as a parent.

About Pokémon Go mobile game

What is Pokémon Go?

Building on the popular Pokémon franchise of the 1990s and 2000s which featured mythical creatures with specific talents and attributes that Pokémon trainers had to capture and train, this is the first smartphone app from the Pokémon Company.

In a nutshell, it’s a free smartphone gaming app that uses a phone’s GPS signal along with the camera to create an ‘Augmented Reality’ giving players (also known as trainers) the ability to see their Pokémon avatars in a real world setting, i.e. park, bedroom, street etc.

The minimum age recommended is 9 years old and above due to ‘infrequent/Mild Cartoon or fantasy violence’.

It is available for both Apple (on iOS) and Android devices.

Why is Pokémon Go so popular?

The pull factor for many is the successful use of ‘Augmented Reality’ that allows people to play a virtual game utilising real world locations.

It also encourages outdoor play and social interactions, which can be great for kids.

How does Pokémon Go work?

Players have to create a personalised Pokémon avatar that is used to navigate through the ‘real-world’ (utilising GPS technology) with the aim of capturing other Pokémon who may be located nearby.

The game also uses the GPS location-based technology to use real-world landmarks, such as parks and tourist attractions, as Pokémon Gyms and ‘Pokéstops’ where trainers can meet and battle.

Different Pokémon live in different parts of the world, for example water-type Pokémon will only be found near water.

What are key concerns for children, and how can you keep them safe while playing Pokémon Go?

Stranger danger

Using location-based (GPS) technology, the app actively encourages users to have social interactions in the real world which is great. However, as the places that prompt players to collect tokens and battle Pokemon are the same for every player, children may unwittingly be exposed to people who may pose a danger to them. With this in mind, it is important to reinforce to children that they should never meet someone they don’t know offline. And to agree boundaries with them of where they can go or should avoid.

Safety outdoors (i.e. crossing roads, other people’s property)

As the app requires you to focus on your phone to play the game there is the potential that players may be distracted when crossing roads or put themselves in harm’s way to capture Pokémon in different areas.

Simply dimming the screen and using the vibrate option to alert players to the presence of other Pokémon will help them keep themselves safe while playing the game on the go.

Another great tip (that we’ve been told about) for iPhone users is for both parent and child to use the same iCloud account. This will enable parents to use the iPhone app to see where they are using GPS on their phone.

In-app purchases 

Although the game is free, like many other games it features in-app purchases to purchase ‘Pokécoins’. To make sure you don’t receive an unexpected bill at the end of the month review your app permissions. See our step-by-step and downloadable guides for parents on setting up Apple iPhones and Android phones.

Mobile data use

As you’re the likely bill payer, it’s important you understand that the app requires constant GPS tracking, and it may eat up mobile data quite quickly, which can be expensive. If your child is on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) pre-pay system, you can regulate and limit how much your child is using the phone.

If your child is on a contract it might be easier for your child to run up high bills. Although most network providers will set limits on usage if you asked them to, so your child won’t run up high bills.

Click here to see another tip that could save on your data that involves using Google Maps offline.

Recommended reading

If you’re a parent and concerned about some of the issues you’ve read about above, see these pages for more information:

Our age specific resources with interactive videos for parents of young children (6-10), pre-teens (11-13). and teens (14+) will help you understand the e-safety issues and solutions specific to your child’s age.

Set parent parental controls on your child’s devices using our step-by-step downloadable guides for Apple iOS phones and Android phones.

Set parental controls on your child’s mobile operator using our step-by-step downloadable guides: EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and TalkTalk Mobile.

Additional information

If you’d like to learn more about the mobile game and how to play it, see these resources:

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  • Ghislaine Bombusa

    Thank you for giving us your feedback, based on this we have updated the article with more information and will look to continue updating the article as the app’s features change and progress so please feel free to send us any further comments in the future. We are also looking to create an infographic for parents to show them visually how it is used and what they need to know to make it much clearer in real terms, similar to our previous infographic for Snapchat. Any feedback is welcome.

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  • Romi Ezzo

    This is a great topic to discuss for parents raising kids in today’s age.
    In a world that’s spending more time in the virtual world, it’s nice to have a reminder of some of the challenges.

    There are now videos on this topic of what COULD happen. You can check one of these ‘social experiments’ out in this article:
    http://onlinesense.org/pokemon-go-parents/