My kids are huge Pokémon fans and have been waiting patiently for Pokémon Go to be released in the UK. It's finally here - Pokémon Go was released today in the UK. In true form, my teen found a workaround and have been playing it since it came out in the US, so we've had a bit of a chance to evaluate if it is safe for kids to play.
If your kids are Pokémon fans, they are going to beg you for Pokémon Go. But what is it, and why is it so popular?
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Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game for smartphone, in which you can catch Pokémon in the real world. It works using mobile data and GPS tracking, while you physically move around to find Pokémon creatures on a in-game map. Once you spot one, you tap on it, the phone camera turns on and you can see the Pokémon on the mobile screen in real-life. Swipe the Poké Ball to capture your Pokémon - Gotcha!
Is this for real? You bet - Pokémon Go users surpassed Instagram users worldwide yesterday. It was only launched in the USA last week. Pokémon shares increased overnight and mainstream media is reporting on the game.
So is Pokémon Go safe for kids to play? The app is available for iOS and Android and parental approval required for users under 13. Ideally you need a smartphone with mobile data and GPS capability to play the game properly. This game is perfect for teens, combining tech and getting exercise outside (you actually have to walk around in the real world to capture Pokémon).
Pokémon Go, has definitely motivated my teen to get out of the house and explore the outdoors. There are more Pokémon in built up areas, so towns and cities could see lots of teens congregating to hunt Pokémon.
It's a bit like Geocaching for Pokémon. Pokémon Stops are found at real-world monuments and buildings and is where users can pick up stuff like Poké Balls, Pokémon Eggs and Potions for game play. The app shows an image of the building or monument to help you find it.
So would you let your under 13 year old kid play? To be honest, I would. Especially as my kids are huge Pokémon fans, and we actually enjoy walking outdoors as a family. However I will not let them explore on their own and they would need to pair up with either myself or my husband, as they don't own their own smartphones (they're only 5 and 7). In my opinion Pokémon Go, can be a great family game to be shared by all.
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Be aware of your SurroundingsSo when you signup to the app and each time you login, there is a warning to be aware of your surroundings. There is a real danger that people walk around outside, with their heads down looking at the map in the app to find Pokémon, without taking notice of traffic and other obstacles.
Unfortunately there has already been reported traffic accidents in the USA linked with playing Pokémon Go. When you have the app open it alerts you with sounds when there is a Pokémon nearby. When you're out and about encourage children to be alert and sensible users of the road.
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Stranger Danger and the "Lure"There are some concerns around PokéStops becoming a place for adult predators to lurk. Firstly this is a danger in any public area which is accessed by children and adults. Secondly, it would be very unwise to send a child or even a teen, who is not streetwise, to hunt for Pokémon on their own.
The "Lure" module can be used by trainers to lure other trainers to a PokeStop. It could be a great way to make new friends and in the same breath could carry potential risk.
The ideal experience would be to search for Pokémon together as a family.
Restrict PurchasesYou have to be aware that Pokémon Go has in game purchases. You can buy almost anything with real money to level up quicker, get more Poké Balls, and more.
My advice would be, if you let your kids play the game on your smartphone, to adjust your payment settings to require a password for every purchase. It is just the sensible thing to do.
You can play the game for free, but it can take longer to Level Up and you may run out of Poke Balls and need to find a PokeStop to get some more.
Mobile Data and Battery AlertParents should be aware the game requires mobile data to work. It depends how much you use it, the app needs to send and receive data to update your location.
I only used 15MB of data and captured 15 Pokemon. I noticed my battery life depleted pretty quickly. Update on this section coming with more usage information after a couple days.
Account to Play & Age RestrictionsYou need a Google account or a Pokémon Trainer Club account to play the game. When you register you are asked for your date of birth.
Parents need to first create their own account after which they can create an account for children under 13 years of age. Verification and consent will be required from parents for children under the age of 13 to play Pokemon Go. Niantic Labs Terms.
Parents should be aware a lot of adults are also playing the game.
Choose your Trainer name carefully, as it is visible to anyone playing the game - that means no personal info!
Wearable DeviceLater this year Pokémon will release a small wearable device to alert users when a Pokémon is nearby. The device will connect with your smartphone via bluetooth and vibrate when you pass a PokéStop or alert you on nearby Pokémon.
Tech Age Kids Verdict
We've already enjoyed playing Pokémon Go as a family. We think it is a fantastic use of technology in the realworld. Pokémon Go certainly has set the bar for future augmented reality games. We really like the idea of technology encouraging positive family time and in the outdoors. We think the Pokémon Go Plus device will be also be popular this Christmas.
As with everything spend time to discuss what is appropriate use of Pokemon Go. It is not OK to drive and play the game. Ask children what they consider risks and talk about it as a family. Ask teens where they intend to hunt for Pokemon and when they plan to be home. Use common sense and adhere to local laws.
So far, Pokemon Go has been a positive experience in our family, but it is early days and time will tell of its true impact.
So what is stopping you, get up, get out and explore - Gotta Catch 'em All!
Note: Pokémon GO is supported by Niantic Labs, the game’s developer. Their help center can be reached at: https://support.pokemongo.nianticlabs.com