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Pokémon Go – A Safety Guide for Parents

So, you're offspring are hooked on Pokémon Go but you're wondering just how safe it is. Here, we take a look at the risks and give you some tips to ensure your kids stay safe as they enjoy this latest craze.

What are the risks of playing Pokémon Go?

For any parent, the best way of assessing the risks is to download the app and have a go yourself! You could have a little play on your own, or better still, spend an afternoon with your kid(s) hunting monsters. This way you can watch them in action and find out what it's all about.

If you don't have time, it's a good idea to swot up - you can read all about the game here.

Now you're up to speed - read on to find out how to make sure your kids stay safe while they try and 'catch 'em all!'

How your kids can stay safe with Pokémon Go

Being aware of where you are walking

It's easy to get caught up in the game and stare at your phone as you walk along. In-game you are always waiting for a monster to appear or a Pokéstop or Pokégym to become accessible.

This could lead to:

  • walking into roads or other dangers
  • wondering into unfamiliar places that might not be safe
  • ending up lost and not knowing how to get home

Meeting strangers face to face

The nature of the game means that your child will meet other people also playing the game. This is usually at local landmarks which are also Pokéstops or Pokégyms - key parts of the game. These players could be children or adults, locals or visitors to the area.

Running out of juice

Having Pokémon Go running for any length of time will seriously drain any phone's battery. This risks your child ending up in an unfamiliar place with a dead phone. They won't be able to contact you and you won't be able to contact them.

Spending money

There are in-app purchases in Pokémon Go. Whilst you can earn Pokécoins for free by taking over Pokégyms, it's tempting to just buy some. 100 coins cost £0.79 but there is also the option to spend £79.99 in one go to buy 14,500 coins. That's a big chunk of any kids pocket money!

The app can also eat up data if it's open all the time. This can get expensive depending on which tariff or contract the phone is on.

Personal Data

You need to provide a date of birth and an email address in order to play the game. If you're concerned about how this data might be used, read the full Privacy Policy here.

Your child's username will also be visible to other players nearby. If they have used their real name or picked a username that personally identifies them, you can change it. Submit a request on the Niantic website but be warned - it may take some time.

Security Risks

The popularity of this game has attracted the cyber criminals and on line scammers. This includes offering downloads of fake Pokemon Go apps or Guides and Cheats to entice you to down load malware onto your mobile devices or computers. Some of these scams tricks users into paying for unnecessary services promising to generate Pokecoins, Pokeballs or Lucky Eggs.

Suggestions to stay secure:

• Only download from reputable sources.
• Always check reviews looking specifically at the negatives one, remember positive reviews could also be the scammer.
• Look at terms and conditions focusing specifically at the permissions the app requires.

Top Tips for staying safe with Pokémon Go

For younger children, the best advice is to go out exploring with them. Get involved and have fun safe in the knowledge that you know exactly where they are and who they're talking to.

For older kids, they'll want to go out with their friends and explore. Even though you won't be there to keep an eye on them, there are plenty of things you can do to help keep them safe.

Set some ground rules

Make sure they never play alone. They should stay with their friends at all times, especially when venturing into unfamiliar areas.

Know where they are going or which areas they are planning to explore. If their plan changes, agree that they will text you and let you know.

Set some boundaries for where or how far they can go, or exclude certain locations that you don't want them to explore.

Set a time when they should be home by. Some Pokémon only appear at night so you might want to agree to do any night playing together.

Ensure they have a battery pack or portable powerpack with them - this way they won't find themselves lost without a phone.

Stay alert with Pokémon go

Discuss with your kids:

Stranger danger. It is great to share their experience with new people. However, they should remember that these people are strangers and that the usual rules still apply. Ask them regularly who they have met and what they talked about. Be aware of any regular contact they are having with new people and any unusual conversations.

Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Remind them that although it's a game, they are still in the real world. Therefore they need to be aware of where they are walking, especially near roads and water.

Help make them aware of some of the dangers by talking to them about some of the stories in the news. Examples include the boys who had to be rescued from a cave, trespassing stories and thieves using lures at Pokestops to attract more people to rob.

How to optimise phone settings for safety when playing Pokémon Go

Turn the vibration feature on (accessed via settings within the app). This means that your child's phone will vibrate when a Pokémon appears nearby. This should mean they won't need to stare at their phone quite so much.

Turn off in-app purchases. Find out how to do this for your child's device here. If you're paying for your child's phone charges, consider Apple's Family Sharing or Android's Family settings to ensure you get to approve any purchases first.

Set up data alerts and 'low battery' alerts on your child's phone so that they know when they are running low.

Remember, it's a good thing that your kids are getting out in the fresh air and getting some exercise at the same time. But if you're still worried - the best thing you can do is go out with them and catch a few monsters yourself! If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

16th August 2016

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Our Day Out Treasure Hunting with Pokemon Go

The latest craze, Pokémon Go, is a global treasure hunt - and we love treasure hunts. So, we just had to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about. Find out how Jane, one of our local Trail Writers, got on when she went Pokémon hunting with her three nephews recently.

Pokémon Go Alone vs with Friends and Family

First, I downloaded the app before my nephews (aged 11-13) were due to visit. I needed to find out what this monster catching lark was all about. After picking and customising my character I quickly caught my first Pokémon. I then ventured out of the house for a little walk to see what I could find. It was quite fun and rather satisfying catching a few monsters and grabbing some items at a Pokéstop or two. However, I felt a bit silly walking around on my own playing the game.

Playing with my nephews was much more fun. We chatted as we walked, compared notes, and they taught me about candy, hatching eggs and using incense to attract more monsters. We even stopped to chat with a couple of other teens at a Pokéstop. They pointed us in the direction of a nearby 'rare' Pokémon which we duly went and caught.

But, I'm a Trail Writer. So I wanted to see how catching monsters whilst doing a Treasure Trail would work out.

The Pokémon Go screenshot shows two Pokéstops nearby. One yielded three Pokéballs and an egg.

Playing Pokémon Go on a Treasure Trail

I've met plenty of Treasure Trailers who also love geocaching and have reported seeking out a few caches in between solving clues. Pokémon Go is a whole different story though.

As we set off, two of my three nephews were instantly glued to their phones. (The third was unable to play Pokémon Go as he had no data left on his phone - see Pros and Cons section below). So, while me and Nephew 1 (N1) read out the directions and worked out where to go, N2 and N3 followed along with phones in hand. Not a great start, and I had to remind them to look where they were going a couple of times. They did however cross roads sensibly, something which younger children may need to be reminded about. More on that in our 'Pokémon Go - Parent's Safety Guide'.

Anyhow, when we knew the first clue was coming up, N2 and N3 both asked for the clue to be read out again. Phones were lowered and the race to spot the clue first was on! Clue solved, treasure map location eliminated, we continued on. N2 and N3 caught a monster each before the 2nd clue came up. But again, they didn't want to miss out on searching for the Trail clues either.

Solving clues and hunting for Pokémon monsters on a Treasure Trail

Multi-tasking on the Trail with Pokémon Go

Three key features of Pokémon Go lent themselves well to our Treasure Trail experience:

  1. Hatching an egg. Halfway round the route, N2 pointed out that I had eggs and I should hatch one. He showed me how to put one in an incubator. This is when I discovered something great - in order to hatch my egg, I had to walk 5 kms. By the end of the Trail I'd made it to the 1 km mark meaning I needed to walk another 4 km to reach my Pokémon Go Goal!
  2. Pokéstops on Clues. A lot of the features with Trail clues on were also Pokéstops (locations in the game where you can get more Pokéballs and other items). N2 loved the fact that we were naturally stopping at these. Plus, he was able to use his Pokémon Go app to locate a couple of the clues before anyone else!
  3. Other Pokéstops. We had great fun searching for a mysterious carving on the outside of the cathedral. It popped up on N2s phone as a Pokéstop which was nearby. We searched and searched for ages before realising it must be inside the cathedral. This made a nice detour as we went in to investigate!
Walking to hatch a Pokémon from an egg and finding a statue at a Pokéstop

If you're still unsure what the game is all about, visit the Pokémon website to find out more. If you're wondering whether the kids should leave their phones at home or not when you do a Treasure Trail, take a look at our pros and cons of playing Pokémon Go whilst on a Trail.

Pros

  • Pokémon Go is great fun - it is a treasure hunt after all!
  • Grown-ups and kids can play together between clues.
  • You can set your phone to vibrate when a monster is near so that you don't have to stare at your phone all the time.
  • There's added reward at many clue locations with items gained at Pokéstops.
  • The app drew the kids to other interesting features along the route between the Trail clues.
  • With three very competitive lads, I noticed that there was less squabbling about who held the Trail / Pen and who crossed off the answer than on previous outings!
  • It encourages kids to want to walk those extra kms to hatch an egg.
  • It's free (apart from data costs that is!), so your day out is still just £6.99!

Cons

  • Yet more screen time.
  • You may need to set sound ground rules to ensure a good balance between looking at a screen and paying attention to the Trail.
  • Safety - linked to the previous point. Make sure everyone is paying attention to their surroundings, especially when crossing roads.
  • Some clues on the Trail can be solved by viewing images on the app - this could be considered cheating!
  • Battery drain - the app uses up battery power fast.
  • Data drain - the app eats data so if you're not in a city with free WiFi, keep an eye on your usage.

Conclusion - Pokémon Go or Pokémon No?

For me, it's a resounding Pokémon Go!

Why? Because we all had fun interacting with each other whilst solving the clues and hunting for monsters. My nephews were fully engaged in the Treasure Trail and solving the clues, and they were also able to clock up some kms for egg-hatching purposes, pick up items and catch monsters along the way.

So, if your kids are hooked on Pokémon Go, as long as you set some ground rules, there's no reason why they can't level up in the game whilst out on a Trail!

10th August 2016

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