Kids these days spend too much time indoors! Or at least they did until the Pokémon Go app was released at the beginning of July.
For any parent who wasn’t quite happy with the amount of time their child spent sitting around indoors, staring at a screen, Pokémon looks like a miracle worker. Since the launch of Pokémon Go on July 6, there have been a record-breaking number of downloads, and throngs of people gathering in public places, looking for Pokéballs or Pokémon to add to their collections. Kids who used to spend hours indoors by themselves are clocking in several miles a day so they can hatch their Pokémon eggs and do battle with Pokémon.
So What Is Pokémon Go Exactly?
Pokémon Go is an “augmented reality” game for smartphones based on the popular ’90s TV show, card game, and Nintendo console game. The app uses the phone’s camera and GPS to superimpose cartoon characters on top of the camera image to make it look like the Pokémon are on your street, or in parks, restaurants, businesses, etc.
The player throws a Pokéball at the Pokémon, or “pocket monster,” to capture it. You can find different kinds of Pokémon characters depending on time of day and geography. For example, there are certain Pokémon that are day Pokémon, and others that are night Pokémon. You may find forest Pokémon close to a wooded area, water Pokémon close to a body of water, and so on.
Pokéstops are locations shown on the map where you can collect Pokéballs, and you can do battle with Pokémon at “gyms” once you reach a certain level in the game. The Pokéstops and gyms are actual physical locations, like local businesses or landmarks, where players will tend to congregate.
The aim is to capture all 151 (currently) Pokémon. The game is free, but there are in-app purchase options to boost the number you capture, which is where the creators earn their revenue. The in-app purchases are not necessary, but they expedite the collection of Pokémon.
7 Tips for Staying Safe While Playing Pokémon Go
Although some complainers are not thrilled with groups of people walking around, looking at their phones, and comparing notes with other Pokémon seekers, there are some clear health benefits. The game is pulling people of all ages outside for lengthy walks, in search of another Pokémon to add to their collection. Adults and children who otherwise may have been parked on a couch are out getting exercise and fresh air, and oftentimes interacting with others who are on the same mission.
Despite the health benefits, however, those using the app are not always sticking to public places, and they are sometimes creating disturbances by trespassing on private property, going into churches or hospitals, and causing traffic problems because of inattention. Some are even playing while driving!
If you and your child are playing Pokémon, consider the following safety tips so you can stay safe and stay out of trouble.
1. Accompany your child if he or she is not old enough to play alone. In Colorado, your child should be at least 12 to be left home alone, so take that into consideration when deciding whether your child is old enough to play Pokémon Go alone. If you have teenagers old enough to play on their own, make sure you know where they are going, who they are going with, and how to contact them if the battery on their phone runs out. Whether your children are old enough to play on their own, playing Pokémon as a family is a great way to get outside and spend some quality time together.
2. Stay off private property. If you or your children step onto someone’s property in pursuit of a Pokéball or Pokémon, you don’t know what kind of reception you’re going to have. It’s best to stick to public or commercial property and avoid going on people’s lawns or properties clearly not for public use.
3. Pay attention to your surroundings. This is important when walking on a sidewalk but especially at intersections, in parking lots, or otherwise in areas with a lot of people or vehicles. If you or your children are too focused on the game and not what’s going on around you, you could fall, get hit by a car, cause an accident, or be robbed.
4. Be respectful. Not every place that has a Pokémon is an appropriate place to go. Don’t go places where it would cause a commotion, be disrespectful, or be considered trespassing. For example, hospitals, funeral homes, and churches may not be the best places to go chasing after Pokémon.
5. Never play while driving. If you’d rather play while in a vehicle, arrange for someone else to drive. Driving while playing a game is one of the worst kinds of distracted driving and can lead to a serious accident. Playing while riding a bike is also an accident waiting to happen. So if you are riding a bike, pay attention to those around you before making a sudden stop to nab a Jigglypuff.
6. Bring supplies. If you or your kids are planning on being out for a while, think ahead. Bring enough water and snacks so that you can stay hydrated, and bring a hat and use sunblock if you are going to be in the sun. Pay attention to how you are feeling and how long you’ve been out in the sun so you can avoid heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
7. Only download the official app. This is more a matter of device security than personal safety, but there are already malicious versions of the app circulating, and downloading those can compromise your device and your personal information.
Collecting Pokémon is fun and can be a great way to get outside and spend time with friends and family, but getting ahead in the game is not worth risking your health or safety. Be smart, play safe, and happy Pikachu hunting!