The Pokémon Go Phenomenon: What Parents Need to Know

Pokémon Go app has taken the world by storm. If your kids are playing, here's what you need to know.




The recent launch of the Pokémon Go app has taken the world by storm and it's no secret that the game has gone viral. Groups of tweens and teens can be found all over the city glued to their phones, frantically swiping their phone to catch elusive Pokémon. If you're not familiar with Pokémon, the trend started back in the 1990s with Nintendo Game Boy. Later, the franchise expanded to include trading cards, movies, a TV series and more.

The game uses GPS and your mobile device’s camera to 'discover Pokémon in the real world.' Basically, these little creatures are lurking in your neighbourhood at landmarks, parks, librairies, stores, and more – and it’s your job to capture them by 'tossing' Pokéballs on your screen. When you capture a character, you add it to your collection, or Pokedex.

There’s no question that this game is innovative and very cool. It’s great in that it gets kids and teens off the couch and outside, walking around their communities. There are definitely some real positives. But there are also some down sides. In the U.S., there have been many disturbing accounts of children getting hit by cars and even being shot and killed for trespassing while playing the game.

If your child has expressed an interest in playing the game or has already downloaded it, there are a few things you should know as a parent to make sure that they are safe and having fun, and not racking up unwanted bills.

PROS

You can play as a family! If you were a child when the first Pokémon games came out, you'll likely become as obsessed with this game as much as your little ones. You can go for walks to catch creatures together or take a family trip to a 'Pokémon gym' to battle your highest-level finds.

It gets your kids outside and walking around. Gamers who may usually prefer to sit on a couch to play video games are now forced to get up, get out and move!

It's free. The app is completely free to download, however there are in-app purchases available. Ensure to have your kids' phones set up to disable these purchases.

It's a fun way to make friends. If you take your kids to the park to play, changes are there will be a huddled group of other children staring at their phones. This is a cool way for your kid to make new friends their age with obviously similar interests. And, you may meet other moms.

The game can be educational since players must go to "Pokéstops" to get items. Many of these stops are public landmarks like churches, fire stations, libraries, and city buildings. Use these stops as an opportunity to teach your child about their city and surroundings. It can be a great lesson in mapping and geography!

CONS

It tracks your GPS. Because the game is connected with Google Maps so that you can locate Pokémon in real time and real places, your child's phone's location will be activated.

The game can lead to distracted walking, driving and running. Due to the nature of the game, your child's eyes will likely glued to the screen. Remind them to always be aware of their surroundings and to be stopped before looking down at their phone. Make sure that your teens do not play and drive. Texting and driving is bad enough; playing a game and having your head buried in a phone is incredibly dangerous.

It uses up a lot of data. Since you can't always play sitting and using the WiFi from home, the app does use up data, which is something to be aware of especially if your child has their own phone. Some plans offer unlimited data, but if you're on a limit, your child will likely use up a fair amount of it. If your child wants to play outside the house, look for places with free WiFi so that their Pokémon dreams aren't shattered.

A few rules...

Do your part to keep the game fun and safe, and make your kids aware of these safety rules.

1. No trespassing
Trespassing has been raised as a concern with kids playing this game. It doesn’t appear that the game requires you to enter a building or space in order to catch Pokémon. The player just needs to be nearby. Keep this in mind while hunting and don’t enter private property.

2. Pay attention to your surroundings
Each time the game loads, it actually issues a warning: 'Remember to be alert at all times.' Make sure your kids don’t get buried in the game to the point they are no longer aware of their surroundings. If you leave the app running in the background, it will buzz when a Pokémon is nearby, so it’s not necessary to be looking at the screen at all times.

3. Set limits
Make sure you set boundaries for how far down the street or from the home your kids can go. Parents should keep an eye on younger kids while they play.

4.Travel in a group and avoid catching Pokémon in unfamiliar areas.
If your kids are a bit older, make sure they stay with friends. They should avoid areas they are unfamiliar with and also avoid playing at nighttime. If they are out late, make sure they stay in areas that are well lit and well populated.

5. Take a look at the privacy settings
Browse through the game's privacy policy to make sure you’re OK with the data the makers are collecting. This can include your email address, IP address, location and even what webpage you were using before signing in to Pokémon Go.

So play safe and Pokémon Go may prove to be a fun family bonding experience!

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