What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go was released in the UK just before the summer holidays and has been phenomenally popular. It uses ‘augmented reality’ where the camera on a smartphone is used to show the landscape layered onto mapping software so it looks like Pokémon creatures are in the environment. Pokémon are creatures that can be captured by Pokémon Trainers using a small spherical device called a Poké Ball. There are different types of Pokémon, with different moves, abilities and stats. The aim of the game is to capture as many Pokémon and to win as many ‘gyms’ for your team as you can and become a Pokémon Master. The Pokédex is an electronic device which stores data from Pokémon once they’re captured. One of the other goals of the player is to attempt to fill their Pokédex by capturing all of the different types of Pokémon. Furthermore there are Poké Gyms, which are buildings located throughout the world where Pokémon Trainers can train, and Poké Stops where you can collect Poké Balls and other items. These are usually located in places of interest, like parks, art installations, churches and other public buildings. This can encourage congregation of people at these places.

This is undoubtedly a novel way to play games as the player has to walk around outside rather than sit at their console but there have been concerns over safety. As a parent or carer you need to consider the following.
It is likely that your child will meet other people while playing the game. It is essential that they understand who it is safe to interact with: this will depend to some extent on the age and maturity of your child.
Players may be so involved in the game they may forget about their ‘real life’ surroundings. While walking with one of my children in town over the summer I noticed two teenagers playing Pokemon Go on their bikes and one crashed into the other as he was trying to catch something exciting. Other issues such as walking out into traffic without looking or going into areas that may not be suitable are also concerns.
The game does contain in-app purchases so make sure these are passworded so your child does not run up a large bill. In addition, the game will use quite a lot of battery and data from the 3G/4G signal so ensure that you child understands the limits of this.
One of the best ways to keep children safe playing this game is to go with them – I certainly went down some streets I had never seen before and learnt some history of my town playing the game with my children and we did it on a shopping day to break the day up. For older children and young people who will not want your company, you still need to have conversations with them before they go: find out what routes they will be using, agree when they will be back and it is better if they go with friends rather than on their own.
There are also some parental controls available to limit game play time.

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