Pokémon Go is the latest and perhaps biggest mobile gaming phenomenon the world has ever seen. In just a few short weeks the app has exceeded Twitter in daily active users and generates higher levels of engagement than Facebook!
With the rise in popularity of this game and the nature of the game itself there are a number of online and physical safety considerations for parents to consider. Let’s take a closer look at the game and what you should be aware of if your children are playing it.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is a free, GPS location based game for mobile phones and tablets that sees users create an Avatar (Character) to capture, battle and train Pokémon characters within the game, it’s that simple.
When installing the app it will request access to certain information and functions on the device. The app cannot be installed unless all are agreed to. This is a fairly standard practice whereby the app states this access is need for the app to work effectively.
How is it played?
The purpose of the game is to locate, capture and develop Pokémon of which there are 151. To locate and capture Pokémon and engage in other activities in the game the player is required to leave home and move or travel around in the physical world.
With the assistance of GPS maps, the player is guided to locations in the community where they might find Pokémon. There are also locations where players can collect items and interact with other players. These are known as Poké Stops and Poké Gyms. Players are also required to walk in order to hatch Pokémon eggs. If these terms confuse you, check out this list of Pokémon Go terms you should know.
Although there is no chat function built into the game itself (they are working on it) players are using another app that has been developed to interface with and work alongside the game. This app is called ‘RazorChat’. Like Pokémon Go this app works on GPS location and enables other players within a geographical radius to chat while playing the game. Other chat apps that are being used by players are ‘GoChat’ and ‘Messenger for Pokémon Go’.
Key things to know as a parent
- No identity verification is required to sign up
- Players must physically attend a real world location where other people will also be directed
- Money can be spent through in app purchases (must be 18 years of age)
- Minimum age requirement to play is 13
- To cancel an account a user clicks on the link in the terms and conditions. At this stage it takes several weeks for an account to be deleted following the initial request.
- When installing, a user relinquishes right to take legal action against the company
- The game operates 24 hours a day
- To move around the streets playing the game an internet connection is required which usually indicates the need for a data plan
Even though the game has only recently been released, human issues involving the game have already started to emerge. Yes, some people are exercising more which is a positive but there are some considerations for parents or carers if their child is or is going to play this game;
Walking, riding or driving whist looking at the screen can and has caused accidents and injuries.
A case has already been reported whereby players had placed a beacon within the game and lured others to that physical location and then robbed them.
The ability and chat and the need to walk around and attend real world locations affords amazing opportunity for child sex offenders to not only groom children but to gain physical access to them.
With the foreseeable introduction of chat functionality combined with the ability for others to come into physical contact with our children, the opportunity for bullying behaviour to occur in this game is real.
The game may require players to go to locations that are prohibited or dangerous such as school grounds, construction sites or private property.
It is possible to spend a lot of money on in-app purchases if a player wants to achieve more within the game
As with most online games hooks are built in to encourage users to play for extended periods of time
What measures should I put in place if my child is playing?
Our advice for Pokémon Go is essentially the same as for any other app but with the added consideration of the game’s physical world aspects. This game highlights the need to protect both the digital and physical safety of our children. Consider putting the following measures in place if your children want to play Pokémon Go:
- Set time limits (For how long and when the game can be played). We recommend that children not play the game at night time.
- Do not chat to others (strangers) who are playing the game
- Accompany/supervise children when they are playing the game
- Be aware it is possible to spend money within the game
- Tell your children to speak to you if they have a problem
- If the game is becoming a problem, delete the account.
- If you suspect something is not right have a conversation with your child
- Remember – Your child needs an internet connected device to walk play the game. If they do not have a data plan on their device they cannot do this
The Final Word
Pokémon Go in essence as a game is of no concern, the concepts are healthy and I have already met many people who say they are walking more than they ever have since installing it. I have seen parents walking the streets, supervising young children while they play the game, which can be a great way to spend time and bond with your kids.
This being said, along with any activity that brings humans together, whether online or in the physical world, dangers and responsibilities exist for your children.
Remember, the rewards for you as a parent or carer when you put protective practices and rules in place is that you reduce the risks your child or family will face issues surrounding technology.