To say the July launch of Pokémon Go has been a phenomenon would be to vastly understate it. Few mobile games have ever launched to so much anticipation and so many immediate downloads. And, it’s obvious why it would. Pokémon Go takes mobile gaming to a whole new dimension.
The idea of Pokémon Go is to turn your real-life environment into a Pokémon world through augmented reality technology. Players collect Pokémon as they move around, and, through their phones, Pokemon appear right in their real world. The Pokémon, and Poke Stops, are scattered all over the map, so as you travel through life you will find and catch more. When players get to higher levels, they can train and battle their Pokémon as well.
Pokémon Go has already had a huge impact on my kids. Some of it is super good, but there are also some trends that are very concerning. Here’s what parents need to know about what to love and what to fear about Pokémon Go.
Pokémon appear in augmented reality as if they are on the actual street in front of you. Pretty cool!
Five Benefits of Pokémon Go
Walking for Wartortle
The first change you will probably notice in your Pokémon Go-obsessed children is that all of a sudden going out for a walk is their favorite activity. Within a day of downloading the app my kid was asking me whether we had to take the bus to camp or if maybe we could walk it. On Saturday we walked four miles collecting Pokémon!
Driving for Diglet
Even long car rides are more fun all of a sudden, because kids can collect Pokémon from the back seat while riding around town. Dragging your kids around to run errands is no longer a problem.
Learning with Lickitung
Poke Stops are important destinations around town where players can collect important rewards. The game chooses significant places, like historic markers and landmarks, which means that as you travel around collecting Pokémon you can also explore your real world, and maybe even learn something.
This Poke Stop was a marker for a wildflower garden in the park we were exploring.
Exploring with Ekans
Pokémon Go turns any outing into a fun adventure for kids. So maybe your next family trip doesn’t have to be to a literal amusement park. A museum, a hike, a new neighborhood to explore: if there are Pokémon there, it’s a kid-friendly destination.
Socializing with Snorlax
Parents usually feel computer games stifle social interaction, but while we walked around town collecting Pokémon, we found a whole community of Pikachu poaching players. It was hilarious to hear, “Pokémon Go!” shouted from across the street as we stopped to capture a Bulbasaur.
So, Pokémon Go is great, right? A new way to help kids get active and explore their worlds. Yeeaah, but... there are a few problems that parents need to be aware of, too.
Five Dangers of Pokemon Go
Don’t Trip for Tentacool
While the rumor that someone died by walking out into traffic playing Pokémon Go turned out to be false, there have been several ER visits due to people not looking where they are going, tripping, and falling, a common pitfall of walking and texting, too! Make sure kids look where they are going. Combining Pokémon Go and any other form of transit—skateboarding, biking, or scootering—is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t Get Victimized for a Vulpix
Walking around with your eyes glued to your phone can also be bad for another reason. Kids with mobile phones are already an easy target for thieves, and being oblivious to their surroundings makes it even worse. In Missouri some teens were robbed by thieves who were waiting at a Poke Stop, knowing kids with phones would be coming by. It might be possible to allow notifications to alert you when there's a Pokémon nearby, rather than staring at the phone while walking. Kids who are old enough to venture out alone should be reminded to be extra careful and aware of their surroundings.
Don’t Break for Bulbasaurs
Obviously, if you are driving you should never be using your smartphone, especially not to collect Pokémon. But also resist the urge to make sudden stops or to pull over when your kids scream out that they’ve found a Pokémon to catch. There’s already been one fender bender due to a driver who stopped short to try to capture a Pokémon.
Suspiciously Seeking Squirtle
For little kids it’s probably not going to be an issue, but there have been a few stories of police stopping people who seem to be wandering around for no apparent reason. Enough said.
Data for Drowzee
A totally different type of danger is your data usage. Since you have to keep the game running to get notifications of nearby Pokémon, the game can eat up your data and your battery. There is a battery saving mode you can turn on in settings, but you may want to keep an eye on that data usage and have a spare battery tucked in your pocket. Also, there was a recent fake Pokémon Go app that users were unwittingly downloading that opened phones up to hackers.
Pokémon Go is available on both iOS and Android. It launched across the U.S. on July 6, and although the app is FREE to download, you will pay for in-app purchases.