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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
If you’d like to learn more about the mobile game and how to play it, see these resources:
- A Parent’s guide to playing Pokémon Go with your kids
- Tips to help you stay safe while playing Pokémon Go
- Should you let your kids play Pokémon Go?
- Common Sense Media – Pokémon Go review
- Vox.com – Pokémon Go, explained
- Consumer Reports – 4 Things Parents Should know about Pokémon Go
- Moments with Mandi – Keeping kids safe while playing Pokémon Go