A parent's guide to Pokémon Go

You've heard of Pokémon Go by now. This global phenomenon recently exploded to popularity, and is being talked about everywhere. There's not one specific group of people playing the game, either. Kids, teens, and adults from every walk of life are wandering out in the real world with smartphones to play the game. The popularity of this game is unlike anything the world has ever seen before, and with that comes some very real concerns. News reports of car crashes, muggings, stabbings, and even the accidental discovery of a dead body have been connected to playing Pokémon Go, and it's easy to be concerned about your kids wandering out at all hours to play this game.

What you may not know is this game has some tools baked in that parents can use to ensure kids are playing this game safely and responsibly. Here's what you need to know!

A brief intro for parents

Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go is a game that requires you to venture out into the real world with a smartphone. As you walk around in the real world with the game open on your phone, you can discover characters in the game that can be captured and used in other parts of the game. The game rewards users for walking certain distances in different locations, so many players are going to want to play the game in a bunch of different places. This includes parks, near water, and in city centers where there's a lot of artwork or churches nearby. The more locations you encounter and interact with, the further your character advances in the game.

More: The Ultimate Guide to Pokémon Go

It's complicated, and a little silly — especially if you've never really experienced the rest of the Pokémon games — but this game is encouraging millions of people everywhere to get out into the real world and walk around. People are seeing parts of their city they've never seen before, meeting people they'd otherwise never have had a conversation with, and doing so with a smile on their face. It's a generally positive experience, as long as you're playing safely.

Talking to strangers

Pokemon Go

One big concern every parent has is talking with strangers. Chat rooms in games are always a concern, because there's little control over the language being used in the chat, and it's easy to convince people you are someone you aren't. We've all seen the terrible stories of kids being tricked into meeting adults in the real world through chatrooms and winding up getting hurt, but Pokémon Go doesn't have one of these chat systems in it at all. There's no way for users to communicate with each other through the app, communication has to happen either in person or through a separate chat service. There are several chat apps available from third party companies that focus entirely on Pokémon Go, but they have to be installed separately and don't talk directly to the game.

This doesn't eliminate concerns, but it certainly helps manage them. If your child is out playing with friends you know, they are significantly less likely to be put in a dangerous situation by wandering off with a stranger. You'll still need to monitor conversations had with strangers about the game through other means, but the lack of an internal chat system means you'll be doing the same things you are already doing to keep them safe from talking to strangers online.

See if they're playing when they shouldn't be

Pokemon Go journal

Pokémon Go keeps an internal log of everything that happens in the game, so you can go back and confirm what items you've collected or what creatures you've transferred. It also adds a timestamp down to the minute the action took place, which means parents have a complete log of when children have been playing the game. Here's where you look:

  1. Tap the head in the bottom left corner of the main game screen.
  2. Tap Journal.
  3. Scroll to see timestamps.

This Journal is everything that happened to this character in the game, and can't be deleted or edited by the user. It's set in stone, making it a reliable way of confirming when your kids have been playing the game.

Tips to ensure everyone is playing safe

Pokemon Go

It's easy enough to look at the app after your child has returned home to see what has been done, but it's more important that your child know how to be safe while out playing the game. As long as everyone is playing safe, the chances of something bad happening are significantly lower. Every parent has different rules for their kids, but there are some universal things that make sense for this game.

  • Use something other than your first and last name as a username in the game.
  • Don't stare at your phone while crossing a street. Use Battery Saver and hold your phone at your side when walking somewhere dangerous.
  • Avoid going out after dark by yourself, and travel in groups of three or more at night.
  • Make sure someone knows the general area you are going to play.
  • Take breaks. Squinting at your screen in direct sunlight for hours is terrible for your eyes.

Most important of all, have fun! This game can be deeply rewarding if you're out playing with friends, and it probably wouldn't kill Mom and Dad to give the game a shot as well. Who knows, maybe you'll be better at it than your kids!

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • I take my teens to various spots. And when they walk aound our neighborhood it is always with a friend Posted via the Android Central App
  • Rule #1: Don't let them play.
    Rule #2: Repeat Rule #1. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'd tell them: "Pick whatever pokemon game you want instead of this, and it's yours. I recommend X or Y"
  • Rule #1 let them play they can play it if they want rule #2 repeat rule #1 Posted from my Moto X 2nd gen and my Nexus 9 both on Android Marshmallow
  • That makes no sense. Did Google Translate fail you?
  • +100000000000 Posted via the Pokemon Central App
  • Data usage? Posted via Priv by BlackBerry
  • It's not a huge data hog. It's used about the same amount of data in the last week as Hangouts has for me.
  • I bet there are going to be parents here that are going to say do not give kids phones that illogical kids need phones in this day and age and the before they was no phone does not matter times have changed and keep up with it Posted from my Moto X 2nd gen and my Nexus 9 both on Android Marshmallow
  • Illogical. Tweeners don't need phones.
  • Yes the do need phones Posted from my Moto X 2nd gen and my Nexus 9 both on Android Marshmallow
  • Do they (kids) "need" a phone no. Can it be a useful tool yes.. But it's not Needed posted via the Pokémon Central app
    before you see the light, you have to deal with the darkness
  • Exactly. My kids have phones since they were between 13 and 14. My 7 year old won't get his own til about the same age. They have pc's and tablets and we have a home phone for emergencies. I just don't see a 10 or 11 year old having a cellular phone at that age.
  • I can see what your talking about I got mine at 10 now I am 15 though so I had my phone from about 5 years now Posted from my Moto X 2nd gen and my Nexus 9 both on Android Marshmallow
  • I bet your addicted aren't ya? Lol
  • The hilarious part are the posts telling other people what to allow their kids to do. What works in one house may not translate to another. I would say many of those who visit this site and others are tech enthusiasts. It stands to reason their kids are as well. Technology is yet another learning tool when used wisely.Teach your children to use tech responsibly and to be aware of their surroundings. Bad things can happen anywhere. Dont be afraid to explore and have fun. Posted via the Android Central App
  • +10000. We did not let our kids play Ingress (though it would have been awesome to have a caravan of people to bump portals) as the ingame chat cant be controlled and also lots of adults play. PGo however we finally let them have our old phones to play with us. They only play when we do, phones go up when we say and the app is in a sandbox app. At ages between 7-12 they don't really need a full fledge phone and should not be trusted with such. Its not the kids you have to worry about, its all the other crazy people, and tons of teenagers who are accidentally running people over while driving for PGo. BUT its something that they enjoy and thus far they can now play PGo while we are out Ingressing.
  • That's a very reasonable and well-thought-out policy. Now let me, a childless 30-something, tell you all the ways in which you are raising your children wrong. :)
  • I got a full fledged phone which is Android at the age of 10 whats wrong with that Posted from my Moto X 2nd gen and my Nexus 9 both on Android Marshmallow
  • You haven't developed good English skills. Maybe you shouldn't have had a phone so young.
  • I had my first smartphone when I was 17. Before that I had some pink nokia with buttons and touch screen. Well smart phones back then were kinda expensive and stuff. Posted via the Android Central App
    for LG G3
  • If young kids want to play it, just go with them.
  • Yes, I think so~ Just let they go~
  • Do not walk of cliffs... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Am I the only one seeing the arent's instead of parent's typo? Posted via the Android Central App
  • AC must be getting paid to promote Pokémon Go. Because this game is a joke. .. but what is more of a joke is that AC keeps writing about this flash-in-the-pan fad. Either way, AC, knock it off with all the Pokémon articles. Very old already and you are ruining your rep.
  • I know, right? It's not like this is a game that has spent a couple of decades building a fanbase of 10s of millions of people all I er the planet, between all of the various iterations of video games across multiple consoles and devices and cartoon series and movies. I mean, who really thinks people will even be playing this game next week? How silly. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's pretty obvious driving around that a lot of people are playing Pokemon. I see it all over town. It's a major culture phenomena right now.
  • As an AC fan, I wonder why folks keep posting about what AC should or shouldn't be writing too much about. No one is forcing you to read any article. That's why the app lets you scroll through a list of articles. I've been ignoring all of their Pokemon articles until this one, because my daughter is interested and this is the first one that is of interest to me. It's like asking them not to cover the Samsung S7 so much when it's the most popular phone in the world. Why wouldn't they? Pokemon is a worldwide phenomenon that is in CNN after all. So clearly there is enough interest. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You are replying to a two-week old comment on a two-week old article. Nobody is forcing you to read our comments. Take your own advice. Don't like it, just move on.
  • Not the same. I didn't come to this article to defend them. It was reposted today, and I read it for the first time. I wanted to read other parents' perspectives and saw this comment. The AC team have a difficult enough job, without discouraging troll like comments. There are many factors at play that determine what they will cover, some beyond AC author's control. I'd prefer for their staff not to get tired of what I believe is unfounded criticism and decide to leave. So you're welcome to continue commenting, but I will also defend them when I think criticism is unfounded because I'd like them to stick around, and see that for comments like that, there are others who disagree. Posted via the Android Central App
  • 'Take breaks. Squinting at your screen in direct sunlight for hours is terrible for your eyes."
    Wow, something that optitions and ocular specialists have debated for years has been authoritievly answered here! May we see your evidence for this assertion? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not if you own an nexus 6P or Flex 2 same as me You can't see the display in sunlight even with brightness maxed out. Would recommend for kids , no problem with their eyes sure Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have no idea what you're trying to say. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Some very basic questions: Can this be played one on one for a set period of time? Kids keep asking to play but we have said no, but I'm thinking setting up teams - say my wife and one kid against me and another would be fun. They are 9 and 8 and had a 6 month period where they were into the cards so they know all the characters.
    Also, can you keep the geographic area contained, or do you have to keep widening the radius to pick up new characters? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Good article. Thanks. So far I uninstalled it after playing with my daughter for a few days because it became too addictive and she was asking to play it all the time. She plays Minecraft and also creates Minecraft mods in Java. It's not outdoors, which is the primary aspect of this game that I like, but I think it's more educational. Still, if I decide to start playing again, I'll heed your advice. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Those are some privileged kids being able to have those phones Posted via the Android Central App
  • Doubt those phones are those kids phone and they're just there for props. No doubt child workers from China. /s #TeamFrosty Nexus 6P
  • It's just for the photo. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My son saw some YouTubers playing and wanted to try it out on my phone. That's all I need is my kid asking for my phone when we go out. Have your own device? Parents say it's OK for you to play? Knock yourself out. Just respect other people and their property and exercise caution at all times. As crazy as it sounds, there are predators out there playing this game and are waiting for someone to be careless. Posted via the Android Central App
  • 'Squinting at your screen in direct sunlight for hours is terrible for your eyes.' No it isn't. It may tire your eyes, but it certainly doesn't harm them. It's a very common misconception that eyes can be damaged this way. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You are repeating yourself. We got the point when you made it originally two weeks ago.
  • One common claim I hear from parents who are against the whole Pokemon GO craze is that it "distracts people from the wonders of the outside world" while forgetting the fact that the game essentially forces people to go outside and walk, which will then have the same people actually take in the scenery they've come across while hunting for Pokemon, pokestops or gyms. Hence the reason why it's an 'Augmented Reality" game. Also, the whole thing with kids having phones is something I really have no opinion of besides just being smart about it: if you're going to give young ones a phone, make sure you know what you're getting into and actually learn how to use the phone too so you can make sure they're doing the right things with it and teaching them to be responsible about it too. Otherwise you get the "kids at the airport squealing about their phone or tablet dying a premature death" situation.
  • AC is giving the App attention because its b i g .. glad they can ride the wave and inform us about it . Kenny
  • My momma would whoop my ass and tell me to do something with my life, trying to catch invisible pokemons with smart phone and runnin around like a maniac. Posted via the Android Central App
    for LG G3