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
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.
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
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
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:
- Tap the head in the bottom left corner of the main game screen.
- Tap Journal.
- 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
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!