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!'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Jane Harvey 16th August 2016
Posted In: Ideas