5 Facts Parents Need to Know About Pokemon Go

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by: Jessica Thiefels

Pokémon Go, the latest mobile craze, has taken the world by storm — but what exactly is it all about? If you’re in the dark, you’re not alone. We’ve got answers to some of the biggest questions and safety concerns parents have about Pokémon Go. Discuss these concerns with your child, and have some fun helping your little Pokémon Trainer “catch ‘em all” safely!

What is Pokémon Go?
What is Pokémon Go?
Originally launched in 1995 in the form of two games for Game Boy, 2016’s mobile app has introduced a whole new generation to the world of tamable monsters.

The Pokémon Go app encourages children to “get up and go” to “catch ‘em all,” and has been praised for getting kids active and requiring critical thinking skills. However, it doesn’t come without some risks. Accidents, injuries, and even new laws meant to protect government regulated areas and U.S. embassies are all results of this newest craze.

So how can you keep your child safe while playing?

How Does Pokémon Go Work?
How Does Pokémon Go Work?
First, check out the official game trailer for an overview of the game. The allure of Pokémon Go is its “augmented reality” style. This relatively new video game style has increased in popularity as mobile devices with GPS functions and powerful processors have become more widely used.

Pokémon Go uses a mobile device’s GPS capabilities to replicate the world map, complete with real-world streets, parks, rivers, and other landmarks. This map is placed in the game, and the player must then travel around that map in “real life” in order to travel around in the game.

Pokémon, the game’s catchable creatures, are randomly scattered across the map, and players must be physically nearby to capture them. For example, if a Pokémon appears four blocks away on the game’s map, the player must walk four blocks in “real life” to reach it.

Need to know: Your child is following a map that’s based on the real world, and will get alerts when a Pokémon is nearby. For example, he may run to the nearby park because he got an alert that there’s a Pokémon there.
Will Pokémon Go Take My Child to Dangerous Places?
Will Pokémon Go Take My Child to Dangerous Places?
Once parents understand the “augmented reality” aspect of the game, the question of safety naturally follows. In short, the game has taken great precautions to keep players safe, but common sense is required.

Remember when GPS units first became popular, and we heard stories of people accidentally driving into lakes? This game can come with similar risks. For example, while all destinations are on public property and safely accessible, players may try to take “shortcuts.” Ambitious players might try to cross roads or cut through private property.

Need to know: Remind your child to stay on sidewalks, bike paths, and other pedestrian-friendly routes. Reiterate that everything in Pokémon Go is in a public place, like a library, restaurant, or park, and it’s never okay or necessary to enter somebody’s backyard, home, or any blocked off or fenced-in areas.

Can My Child Play Pokémon Go While Driving?
Can My Child Play Pokémon Go While Driving?
This is one of the biggest concerns among parents. As with any mobile device function — including texting, checking social media, and playing other games — there’s a serious risk associated with playing while driving. These risks have already led to serious accidents as the result of playing Pokémon Go while driving.

Need to know: If you have a driving player, take the same precautions that you do to prevent them from texting and driving.
Can My Child Talk to Strangers On the Pokémon Go App?
Can My Child Talk to Strangers On the Pokémon Go App?
As of right now: no. While interactive features like “gyms” allow users to “battle” the Pokémon of other users, there is no feature that allows in-game chatting or contact. Beyond this, Pokémon Go is a strictly single-player game.

However, the game is extremely popular. Current estimates count about 21 million daily users worldwide. Given this, if your child is playing Pokémon Go in a popular public place, they’re bound to bump into (perhaps literally!) other players.

Need to know: Remind your child of typical “stranger danger” rules and guidelines in case there are people out there trying to take advantage of this.
Can My Child Drain My iTunes Account or Data Allowance?
Can My Child Drain My iTunes Account or Data Allowance?
Here’s an issue to keep an eye on. While Pokémon Go is free to play, it does include optional in-app purchases that spend real money from your iTunes account.

Mobile device carriers have addressed parents’ concerns about unauthorized in-app purchases. Read the following GottaBeMobile articles to learn how to disable in-app purchases on iOS and Android devices.

Additionally, if your child is using your device’s data rather than playing while connected to WiFi, which is likely since the game asks players to travel away from your home, you risk going over and incurring the costs of that.

Need to know: Keep an eye on data allowances to avoid costly overage fees; you can check usage on your device or on your carrier’s website.