Yeah, I did it. I downloaded Pokémon Go. I’m not much of a gamer, and I usually don’t jump on bandwagons. When a new app or technology is hyped up to the extent that Pokémon Go has been, I tend to rebel and stay away until the fervor has died down. Usually I can wait a while to see if an app is going to take off before installing and testing it out. But, alas, I went ahead and downloaded Pokémon Go about a week after its release – after dead bodies had been discovered by people playing the game, after police stations were putting out warnings, after two men fell from a cliff playing the game, after a man crashed his car playing the game, and after a man was lured into a robbery at gun-point while – you guessed it – playing the game.
If you do a Google search right now for Pokémon Go, you’ll see over 36,100,000 results. So there’s a lot of information out there already about this app. This is not a comprehensive tutorial. (I’d have to get better – I’m pretty dismal, I’ve only caught 2 little monsters so far!) But I wanted to highlight a few key facts that parents will want to keep in mind when evaluating whether their kids should be playing Pokémon Go.
1. Age Restrictions in Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go is rated 9+ in the Apple app store, and 10+ in the Google Play store for Android. Once installed, you are prompted for your date of birth. If you are over 13, you’ll then have the option to connect with a Google account, or through the Pokémon Trainer Club.
If connecting with a Google account, you’ll get a prompt where you acknowledge data that Google can access– just basic account information such as your e-mail address (not all your e-mail messages). An earlier potential privacy issue, where Google was given access to more data than it needed, has reportedly been fixed.
If you are under 13, and you enter your actual birthdate, you won’t have the Google option. You’ll need to sign up through the Pokémon Trainer Club, which is an account with Pokemon.com. I tried doing this to see how that process would work, but seems they are just so popular now, that I received an error. For a child account (under 13) they require an e-mail to, and consent from, a parent in order to approve the account, in compliance with COPPA (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).
Note: There is no age verification, so it is easy enough to enter a fake age.
2. Privacy Settings in Pokémon Go
There are no privacy settings in the app. There is a Settings page within the app, with limited options. About all you can do is turn off the Music, Sound Effects, and Vibration. I heartily recommend turning of the background music. You can also turn on the Battery Saver, which should help prevent the game from using up all your juice.
3. In App Purchases in Pokémon Go
While the app itself is free, Pokémon Go app offers in-app purchases. The in-app purchases cost anywhere from $0.99 to $99.99! Yes, for just under $100 you can buy 14,500 PokéCoins. What’s a PokéCoin? It’s the currency used within the game. You can earn them or buy them.
So, if you don’t want the kids running up your credit card bill, be sure to restrict in-app purchases (which is done in iOS restrictions settings).
4. Use of location/GPS in Pokémon Go
In iOS, you can make sure your location settings are only used when the app is in use. Close out of the app completely to make sure the app is no longer accessing your location.
5. General Safety when using Pokémon Go
It’s great that Pokémon Go encourages you to get outside and walk around. But it seems like common sense has not been used by all, thus all the news stories (walking off cliffs, crashing cars). Remind teens to use their common sense – stay together, be careful after dark, especially if not familiar with the surroundings, and keep your eyes on the road – when walking, biking, skateboarding, rollerskating, or driving! Put the phone away any time wheels are involved. Younger kids might need a parent along for the ride or walk, and Pokémon Go could be a fun game to play together as a family, while keeping these simple safety features in mind.
I like this quote, from the man who was robbed at gunpoint, not wanting to let the incident he endured scare others away: “Don’t let this be an opportunity to live in fear, let this be a reason for parents to start walking around with their kids again.”
So what do you think – has your family caught the Pokémon Go bug? Or have you stayed away? Let me know in the comments!
For a more thorough understanding of Pokémon Go, here are some additional articles to check out.