Pokémon Go: A Guide for Parents

HiTechMomGeek Out, Safe Kids

pokemon go parents guide

Have you heard any of the following phrases lately?

“Mom! There was a Pidgey in the restroom with me!”
“Dad, you really need to call an exterminator. This house is full of Rattata.”
“Mom, dad, I’m going out Pokémon hunting” (and they’re gone for hours)
“Can you drive me to the mall or the park so I can battle?”
If you’ve heard similar phrases, your child might be playing the new, extremely popular “Pokémon Go” game, which has caught on like wildfire since it’s release. As a parent, you will want to know what this game is about so you can talk to your children about how to stay safe while playing it.

Game Basics:

 

pokemon goIn Pokémon Go, you are a Pokémon trainer. The game uses your phone’s GPS location to plunge you right into the middle of the the game. When you open it up, you’ll see a map of your current location superimposed with your character and all of the game elements. Your job is to find wild Pokémon that are near you, capture them, make them more powerful, and later battle your Pokémon to take control of local gyms.

 

The game is exceptionally immersive. The gameplay takes place in your exact location. As you move, the game moves and changes. When you attempt to capture a Pokémon, the game uses augmented reality to superimpose the character over your current environment. If you’re standing in the kitchen when you see a Pokémon on the map, you’ll actually see the character jumping around your kitchen while you capture it.

 

To be successful in the game, you have to get up and move around. If you remain in one place, wild Pokémon will eventually show up and you can capture them, but you’ll soon find that you’ll want to get out and find pokestops where you can get more supplies and gyms where you can battle others. Different types of Pokémon will be found in different types of terrain. “Water type” Pokémon will be found next to water for example. Some types are easier to find in certain geographical areas.

 

Benefits of the Game:

 

Pokemon hunting

“Pokémon Hunting”

The most obvious benefit of playing this game is that it forces you to be more active. You have to move to different locations to get supplies, battle, and find more Pokemon. Sure, you could cheat and drive to some of these places, but once you’re there, you’ll usually find that you have to walk a little in order to get what you want. If you want to hatch an egg, you MUST walk around. Each egg requires a 2-5 km walk before it will hatch.

 

Another benefit of this game is interaction with other players. There is no built-in chat or anything that you see in the game that allows you to interact with other players, but as you get out and walk around, you’re highly likely to encounter other players (actual humans in the wild) trying to get supplies from the same pokestop, battling at your local gym or just out wandering around catching Pokémon in the same area.

 

If your child is playing this game, chances are, you’ve heard them ask to go outside and walk around, ride their bike, or ride their skateboard. Chances are, they were out there for a few hours getting lots of exercise. Your young child may have asked you to accompany them and you inadvertently got to log a couple of miles of exercise while you spent time with your child. If you’re like me, you are a grown adult who has convinced her children to play so that you didn’t have to go Pokémon hunting at the park alone. My 18 year old daughter and I spent about 2 hours doing that last night.

 

What should parents be concerned about?

 

gotta catch em allIn my opinion, this is a great game for your kids to play. It will make them exercise and they might make new friends while they’re out. However, as a parent, there are things about this game that you should be aware of so that you can make sure your child is staying as safe as possible while playing.

 

What happens when kids who usually sit in front of a computer screen all day start walking around hunting Pokémon in the real world while completely immersed in a game? They start running into things, falling, and wandering into places where they shouldn’t be. How can you make this less dangerous for your child? If you learn a few tips about the game, you can talk to your child about how to be safe while using it. I’d recommend playing it yourself, or walking around with your child while he plays it and you ask questions. You will both have a blast if you play together.

 

You don’t have to stare at the phone while walking around.
Let your child know that as long as the game is open on their phone, they can hold the phone in their hand or even put it in their pocket while they walk. If a wild Pokémon appears in their immediate area, the phone will vibrate to let them know. They don’t have to walk around while staring at the map on the screen.

pokemon go at astros game

Captured from club level!

You don’t have to walk to a Pokémon’s exact location to capture it.
When a wild Pokémon is nearby, they can stop in an area where it’s safe to capture the Pokémon. As long as it appears on their game map, they can capture it. They don’t have to walk to the exact location.

For example, your child is walking, the phone vibrates, they look at the screen and see a wild Pokémon in the middle of an intersection. They don’t have to physically stand in the middle of the intersection to capture it. They can stand right where they are, or even walk a short distance to a place that might be safer. This feature was purposefully programmed into he game to keep players safe.

Bring a buddy and be aware of your surroundings
They will need to be conscious of their surroundings while they capture Pokémon. They’ll see a live view of the area where their phone is pointed, but they need to be aware of what real-world dangers might be lurking over their shoulder. My recommendation to keep them safe is to always bring a buddy while out Pokémon hunting.

Choose a username that isn’t identifying
There is no built-in chat feature in the game, but if your child captures a gym, their username will appear to anyone in the area who touches the gym to see the details of who is in control of it. Since your child will have to physically be near that gym to do battle, it’s probably not the best idea to have their actual name as the username.

pokemon gym pokestopBe cautious when visiting Pokestops and gyms
We have 3 Pokestops and 2 gyms in our neighborhood. Whenever my daughter and I are out playing the game, we ALWAYS see other players hanging out near gyms and Pokestops. Check out what happened at this local park.

So far, the people who we have run across have been harmless, but you never know who might be waiting at a gathering place ready to take advantage of a kid immersed in a game. Your child might actually make some new friends at these places, so I wouldn’t suggest forbidding them from going there at all. Just like any place that your child will hang out in the real world, there are benefits to being there and there are also dangers. Make sure you know where your child is going, make sure that they are accompanied by someone who can help keep them safe, or even better… take them there yourself. You can drive up to a Pokestop or gym and stay inside of the car to take advantage of these places (as long as you can get close enough to it in your car).

Pokemon LureBe even more cautious at Pokestops with “lures”
There is an item called a “lure” that players can purchase with in-game tokens. They drop it at a Pokestop and wild Pokémon are lured to that area for a certain amount of time (30 minutes in our experience). Other players can also benefit from the lure and they can go to that stop and catch a bunch of Pokémon at the same time. You’ll know that someone has dropped a lure at a Pokestop because that Pokestop will have confetti flying out of it on the map. Hurry up and get over there and capture lots of Pokémon, but know that you’ll run into other people there. You might make some new friends. However, even my teenager was skeptical about how safe it is to have the power to lure a bunch of kids to a certain spot for 30 minutes. I’d personally want to accompany my child to one of these stops. Use your own parental judgement and set rules with your child about how to handle this specific situation when they run across it.

Don’t play while driving
Playing the game while driving is the worst idea. If teens are driving from one Pokestop to another, they need to put the phone away while they’re behind the wheel. Let them know that the game is set up so that it doesn’t log miles where you’re traveling at driving speeds. Make them take a buddy who can hold the phone while they drive to further limit the temptation.

Your battery is gonna die
The game uses a lot of the phone’s resources, which include constant location tracking and constant use of the screen, among others. Playing the game will make your phone die faster than normal. You don’t want your child to be several miles from home with a dead phone. Make sure they check their battery level often and that they know to start heading back when it’s low. If you have external batteries, keep them charged and make sure that your child takes them on their hunting expeditions.

Tell them about the battery saver mode that’s in the game settings. This mode will dim the screen and use fewer resources while they’re walking around. Once it’s turned on, they just point the top of the phone at the ground while they’re walking around. It will use less battery and it will vibrate to let them know when there are Pokémon in the area. They can also make other adjustments to the phone settings, like dimming the screen brightness and turning off the AR mode when capturing Pokémon.
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Watch your gmail password
Players can sign into the game using their gmail account or a Pokémon account. After quitting the game or when trying to log on after the server goes down, you’ll be asked to enter your account credentials. If you’re waiting on the server, chances are you might enter those credentials many times in a public place. If you’re using your gmail address, be extra careful about blocking the screen from people in your immediate area. Giving a stranger access to your gmail address and password can cause you all kinds of misery.

Instead of attempting to login over and over when the server is down, try this website, which will tell you whether the servers are online, unstable or offline. If you use this, be sure to come back every now and then to report how the server is working for you.

My list of benefits was quite a bit shorter than my list of concerns, but don’t let that worry you. I think this game is wonderful. The benefits are so great that I don’t think I need to explain them in as much detail as the concerns. It makes kids exercise and talk to each other. It’s a great, new way to spend time with your kids that BOTH of you will enjoy. As a parent, you know how important those things are. I am not a Pokémon fan, but I have been having a blast playing this game with my kids since it came out. Give it a try!

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