- Security

Worried About Your Kids Playing Pokémon Go? 8 Tips To Keep Them Safe

Gotta catch ’em all? With Pokémon Go now available in America, Australia and New Zealand, across Europe, and finally Japan, it comes as no surprise that hordes of youngsters are searching for that elusive Ditto.

From your neighborhood, your children can probably snap up a few Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles, but they’ll need to venture out to find rare Pokémon. Encouraging people to walk is one advantage of playing the game, but it’s also raised a few safety concerns, highlighted by media attention.

It’s really not all bad. If you’re a parent, and concerned about the dangers of your kids playing Pokémon Go, here are some tips to help them get the most out of the game without risk to themselves or others.

1. Help Stock Up on Supplies

Phone. Wallet. Keys. That’s the normal routine for adults. While many kids are perfectly responsible and thoughtful, they might overlook the basics in order to get out and play with mates.

Those familiar with treks know to keep a bag of essentials with them, but it’s easy to underestimate a Pokémon hunt. If they’re walking 10km to hatch an egg, that’s a full-on hike! Eggs come in three variations: 10km, 5km, and 2km. You won’t appreciate the irony of your kids getting dehydrated because they wanted to hatch a Magikarp — certainly not from the Emergency Room!

It might not seem “cool” but before they set off, help your kids pack a rucksack or even carrier bag. Put in plenty of water, sandwiches if their trek coincides with lunch, and something to give them a boost; sweets, for instance, should be enough to help their blood sugar levels. Check the weather — will they need sun cream or sunglasses?

Of course, the trick is to have all the essentials without getting too weighed down. Water, then, is heavy, so how about giving them a refillable bottle with a filter in the lid?

2. Organize a Group Activity

Pokémon Go is a social experiment, and a highly successful one at that. Head towards any city centre and you’ll see scores of folk crowded around on their phones; it broke the iTunes record for most downloads in its first week — and, even though the game’s by Niantic, shares in Nintendo initially increased in value by over $7 billion.

It’s designed to get people interacting with each other!

Friends have been chatting incessantly about it, so if your child is planning a trek, suggest they meet up with some mates. As the old saying goes, there’s safety in numbers: a lone hiker is more of a target for thieves, and if anything goes wrong, at least they’ve got the help of peers. If your child doesn’t have reception, it’s likely at least one of their friends will, for instance. Plus, it’ll actually enhance their enjoyment of the game!

Don’t be put off yourself either: show interest and ask to come along, especially if your child’s friends are too busy. You’ll get to spend some quality time together, and you might gain more appreciation of Pokémon Go.

3. Keep Abreast of Scams

The good news is, Pokémon Go doesn’t pose a threat to privacy, early controversies being contributed to a mere mistake on behalf of Niantic and Google.

The bad news is, Pokémon gets the big bucks, and with millions of users worldwide, it’s a massive target for fraudsters, so you need to keep track of the latest scams and pass that information onto your kids.

Pokémon Go is a free game, albeit with in-app purchases. Everyone knows this. That didn’t stop some trying their luck by emailing users, pretending to be Niantic and asking for a $12.99 monthly fee, supposedly due to demand on their servers. It even fooled Deadline for a while. Anyone clicking on the links in said email would be directed to a fake login page, and could’ve been subject to malware.

A similar concern came from the number of fraudulent apps popping up in countries where Pokémon Go hadn’t been released.

Then there are chancers on auction sites, like the guy who claimed to be selling a Level 20+ profile for $100.

Basically, assure your youngsters that Niantic isn’t going to start charging for something millions have already downloaded for free.

4. Set Basic Limitations

Pokémon Go is, of course, no excuse to forgo basic safety measures, but it’s easy to get caught up in the fun of the game. You simply need to re-inforce these guidelines: even if there’s a Charizard down a dark alley or a road with its lights off, your child should be asking, “Would I normally go down here?” No? Then they shouldn’t go now either.

The dangers of them wandering into areas they don’t know is obvious, but the temptation could be too great if someone’s used a lure.

Lure Modules mean hotspots for Pokémon. Unlockable when you reach Level 8, modules work for 30 minutes and draw all sorts of creatures to a Pokéstop. Lures are a great idea: players get the chance to catch rare Pokémon, have a rest (you don’t need to walk around if you’re at a Pokéstop), and meet plenty of fascinating people with the same interests. Similarly, shops and restaurants have been using lures to get extra custom!

There’s a downside too: thieves have been using the Modules to draw people into quieter alleyways. It means they get regular custom too, if for more nefarious purposes than stores. The Pokéstops are worked out by a clever algorithm, so while many occupy town or city centers, some are in secluded spots.

Remind kids not to be blindsided by the possibility of rare Pokémon. It’s never worth it.

But you also need to keep in mind that they will venture into areas they don’t normally go now and then. That’s only natural. As long as they use their common sense, they should be fine.

5. Get to Know the Game Yourself

Knowledge is essential, so even if you’ve grown to despise Pokémon Go, doing a bit of research can have a lot of benefits.

Youngsters might be pretty annoyed that you’re not letting them roam dark streets. They might rationalize it with “but there’s a Dragonite nearby!” But if you know the game, you’ll realize there’s probably another way to find it without trekking through dodgy neighborhoods. You’ll also know which Pokémon are the really rare ones and if they’re likely to respawn anytime soon.

Encourage them to stay away from anywhere that’s either too crowded or too empty. Thieves know how to work a crowd, so while a mad panic might ensue for a rare Pokémon, it’s best to keep back, lest valuables be stolen. Plus, it’s best to avoid crowds if you or your child is prone to anxiety attacks.

Let’s take that early morning rush to Central Park, New York, to catch a Vaporeon. That’s completely avoidable. For one, these appearances are pretty random — I saw one in my little town, but that wasn’t on the news! — so you might find one elsewhere, where there’s little fanfare. And secondly, you could just evolve Eevee, which is where that working knowledge comes in.

Eevee has three different possible evolutions, so if you want Vaporeon, you rename Eevee “Rainer”, “Sparky” for Jolteon, or “Pyro” for Flareon. It’s a simple hack that will please fans of the classic Pokémon TV series!

6. Buy Them a Power Bank

This is for peace of mind, not just when your kids are playing Pokémon Go but in general as well.

The game eats up battery power, so within a couple of hours of consistent play, it’s dropped from near 100% into single figures. Unless you buy them a wearable Pokémon Go Plus — a small Bluetooth-enabled device that lights up near Pokémon or Pokéstops — players need their smartphone out as they walk.

But the Plus has been delayed and will set you back $34.99, so in order to hatch eggs or find nearby creatures, the app will be in constant use.

A power bank, then, is a portable unit that attaches to a phone to give it a much-needed battery boost. They’re typically pretty cheap, but it’s worth shopping around for the best. It’s a great present for Christmas or birthdays, and will make sure they’ve enough charge to call for help if they get in trouble.

7. Ensure They Check Surroundings on Maps

A power bank will also mean they can check in on a Map app from time to time.

Pokémon Go uses GPS, and a rudimentary layout is relayed on screen, but it’s just not good enough for full map use. If a youngster needs a lift home (and, while exploring, it’s easy to forget you need the energy to walk back the way you came too), they need to tell you exactly where they are. Pokémon Go doesn’t list street names or even towns and cities, so a supplementary app is essential.

Ask them where they’re going before they set out, even if that’s a general area you can find them — say, at the beach looking for a Lapras.

The other benefit of a further app running, of course, is to help them plan a route back. It’s easy to wander off the beaten track and unless they drop bread crumbs behind them, they may find it difficult to find their way back to a recognized area after spending the past hour instead looking down at their phones.

8. Track Them — Or Just Stay in Touch?

There’s considerable debate over the moral aspects of this, so you need to come to a decision by yourself: should you try to track your children?

It might be for your own peace of mind; it could be considered an invasion of privacy. Nonetheless, there’s a market for keeping tabs on your kids. It does at least mean you can find them easily in an emergency. You could use a separate device, or plump for tracking a smartphone through Find My iPhone or a similar app on Android to give you approximate locations. That’s less invasive.

On the other hand, it doesn’t show a great deal of trust if you’re essentially tagging your kids. Instead, just keep in touch with them. You do this already, but be more alert if they’re hunting Pokémon. It’s definitely a good compromise if the alternative is tracking. Otherwise, check out these smart alerts to keep updated with their day.

Pika?

Pokémon Go is getting a terrible time from the media in general, but parents should take solace in the fact that, by abiding by some very basic tips, kids can be safe and still have a fantastic time.

It might be something you can do together, but remember: there’s such thing as an unhealthy obsession! Encourage them to take time away from their phone. They can still get a social media fix, check emails, and keep track of news. Just like taking a break from work, sometimes everyone needs time away from games. These things can occupy your mind too much, and eat up time.

If they’re really struggling with putting the game away, children could always indulge in one of the classic handheld games. It’s the franchise’s 20th anniversary, and Pokémon X and Y are good jumping on points for fans who have wandered away from the series, or indeed, youngsters whose first impression was Pokémon Go.

What further advice do you have for parents? Are you or your kids a little Poké-obsessed? Are you totally over this craze already?

Image Credits: MNStudio/Shutterstock

About Philip Bates

Read All Posts By Philip Bates