by: Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
There’s a new game out called “Pokemon Go.” You may have heard of it.
People playing it have walked into ponds, crashed cars, nearly missed the birth of their children, and caught criminals, all the while looking for monsters that fit in your pocket.
All of those things have happened to adults. What could happen if your kid was playing it?
Here are seven things to watch out for if your child is one of the 7.6 million people who have downloaded the game onto a smartphones – or if they have access to someone’s else who did.
First, a short primer.
What is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is an augmented reality video game, meaning it mixes video elements with real-world physical features. It was released on July 5 and is available for both Android and iPhone operating systems. The download is free.
How do you play?
The game sends players (“trainers” according to the Pokemon reality) out into the world to collect monsters called Pokemon (a shortened version of “pocket monsters,” according to Nintendo). The monsters take the form of dragons, rats, things that look like swords, an ostrich-type creature with two heads, and so on. You “catch” them by virtually shooting red and white “Poké Balls” at them. The game, developed by Nintendo, uses your phone’s GPS (which tells it which physical features are near), and the phone’s clock to decide which Pokémon will appear.
How do you win?
The goal is to “catch ’em all,” according to Nintendo, and when you do get the Pokemon, you then have the chance to become a Pokemon master by defeating trainers known as “gym leaders.”
7 Things parents should watch out for if their kids are playing the game
1. It is child-friendly. First, the good news: the game features the little creatures in various real-world locations and generally has nothing that is inappropriate for a child to see. Plus, it gets the child outside and moving around.
2. It eats up your phone’s data. The game depends on constant location tracking and that depends on mobile data. If you do not have unlimited data in your phone plan, you could be looking at some big-time overage charges. Also, within the game is the opportunity to purchase Pokecoins (you use them to buy different things along the way) plus other items that range in price from 99 cents to $99. You may also want to budget for broken phone screens or waterlogged devices.
3. Stranger danger. Part of the game is the fun of the hunt, but when it leads you to places that are unsafe, it can become the stuff of a parent’s nightmare. Players can interact with other players in their area as they attempt to capture “gyms” or local points of interest. There are also PokéStops based on real-world locations, which, in turn, have hubs where players can meet. Have the “stranger danger” talk with them.
4. Look up. Walking, or worse, riding a bike while looking down at a device is a bad idea. A really bad one. Warn your children to watch where they are going, especially when it comes to busy streets or high-altitude areas.
5. Watch out for your personal info. Nintendo asks that you register to use Pokemon Go, including email addresses and things like your child’s birth date. The company has access to personal identifiable information, or PII, upon registration. The company recommends you use Google or Facebook accounts to sign in. If you do use Google or Facebook, remember, you are opening up your personal information – posts, emails – to Niantic, the game’s developer. The company requires you to notify them if you want collection of that material stopped.
6. Don’t trespass. No one will look kindly at a 10-year-old on their property, holding a phone and looking for a pocket monster.
7. Have some respect. While the game has been developed to place Pokemon in all types of places, it doesn’t mean you should let your child whip out the cellphone and start searching for Pikachu at Arlington National Cemetery. Or the Holocaust Museum. Or the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. All places where people have, thoughtlessly, disturbed the solemn nature of the memorials looking for Pokemon.