What Parents Need to Know: Pokémon GO

Last week, a new game for iOS and Android, launched and took the world by storm. Despite barely being out for five days, the app has already reached number one in the app store and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to relinquish it’s first place position for some time. Kids and adults alike have been enjoying Pokémon GO for all its new, exciting virtual reality game play mechanics and real world exploration.

About Pokémon GO

The app features Pokémon as the main attraction, a popular gameIMG_8845 franchise by Nintendo, but it also shares elements with games like Ingress and Geocaching. The game revolves around players moving around in the real world and watching their game characters move with them to look for Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms on the virtual map of their location.

Players can catch, nickname, train, and evolve their Pokémon as well as battle at Gyms occupied by opposing teams to claim them for their own team.  It encourages players to get active by walking around like on a real Pokémon adventure and to meet other players in the community by communing at Pokéstops and Gyms to gather items or battle. The game also includes a photo feature where a player can take pictures of the Pokémon they encounter in the wild.

Overall, the game is incredibly fun and interactive, encouraging players to constantly be on the search for new Pokémon to show off and use to capture the Gym for your team. The game is free to play, although players can purchase coins from the in game shop with real money. Although it is great that the game is getting players outside and moving while doing something that would normally involve them just sitting at home, the game also comes with its fair share of concerns.

What Parents Should Know

While Pokémon GO is generally a good game, there could be some issues with younger kids using this type of app. Pokémon is a franchise targeted towards young children, so many could be drawn towards the app before even knowing what it is, but generally these types of games are targeted towards an older audience.

Children cannot explore much on their own or drive around which limits the experience, so of course they would want to go out of the house and try to go on walks to be able to enjoy the game to its fullest. Many parents surely would not want to spend hours in the heat searching for virtual Pokémon, so they stay back and let their kids roam about on their own. However, walking around while staring at their phone is not the safest thing for a kid to be doing , for obvious reasons. They could easily walk into traffic or end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, despite the app encouraging its users to always pay attention.maxresdefault

Parents with younger kids using this app should accompany them at all times while they’re out exploring. Especially when heading to Pokéstops or Gyms. Those are locations on the map that are shared with everyone else who has the app.

Someone with bad intentions could stake out at one of these stops and wait for children to come by. However, Pokémon made a good call in the placement of these stops. They are generally all in public places such as cafes, restaurants, churches, and famous landmarks. This makes the locations safer, but parents should always make sure to accompany their children on their Pokemon journeys regardless.

Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms can also be found while driving, which poses another issue. While Pokéstops and Gyms are often off of the road which requires a driver to park and get out to visit them, Pokémon can pop up anywhere, including on the road. Teen drivers may try to catch these Pokémon while driving, which is essentially just as bad, if not worse, than texting and driving. Parents should make sure that teens go on walks to catch their Pokemon or have someone else driving while they use the app.

Alternatively, Netsanity  offers services including a gameblocker feature which can keep teens off the game while driving or if they start to spend too much time on this and other  addictive games and apps. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices. They have a version for Android coming as well.

Pokémon GO is a great app for everyone in the whole family to enjoy, but make sure to set parameters to keep kids safe!

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