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All About Pokemon Go: 5 Things Parents Need To Know

What Is Pokemon Go? Pokemon Go Facts For Parents

Pokemon Go has been all over the news this week. Here’s our quick take on what parents really need to know, plus tips for how your teenager can play it safely.

1. So What is Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go is what is called an “augmented reality” game, which means that what you see when you play looks like the world around you (literally), but that world has been augmented in some way (in this case, by little monsters called Pokemons). The game is based on the original Pokemon (short for “pocket monster”) video game, which was released in the 1990s.

2. How Does it Work?

Players download the Pokemon Go app to their phones. The game uses the phone’s camera and GPS to show a view of a player’s surroundings. (Depending on a player’s settings, this view will look real or animated.) If a player is walking down a street, then she sees that street. If the player is in Central Park, then he sees Central Park. You get the idea. The game then augments this view with Pokemon characters. Characters are “placed” using GPS, so all players see the same characters. The goal is to spot and catch these Pokemon characters.

3. What are the Safety Concerns?

Like texting, Pokemon Go can distract players from the real world around them. The animated view does not show a real-time view of a player’s surroundings; in other words, there are no “real” cars or people or other dangers displayed on the animated screen. Note, the real view does show the real world around a player (cars, bicycles, people, your messy bedroom, etc.). Still, there have been reports of players running into roads and, in popular tourist spots, crashing into other players.

SAFETY TIPS: 

  • Remind teenagers that while playing Pokemon Go, they must be ware of their surroundings at all times. Players must look where they are walking with their own eyes, rather than relying on the game to be their eyes.
  • Talk to teenagers about going after characters that may be in dangerous spots. For example, one mom told us that in her hometown, there’s a “water” Pokemon at the bottom of a waterfall, which can only be reached by climbing over a safety barrier.
  • And, please also remind teenagers: Pokemon Go should never be played while driving.

4. What are the Security Concerns?

Right now, there are two main concerns.

PRIVACY: 

Like many apps that use GPS, Pokemon Go knows a lot about a player’s whereabouts. According to the game maker’s privacy policy, the app can collect your email address, IP address, your recent web history, your username, and your location.

GOOGLE: 

Players who sign up for Pokemon Go using a Google account have been unwittingly handing over access to almost all of their Google account data. While it’s now common to sign up for apps using Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts, typically only “basic” information is available to the app. Not so with Pokemon Go and the amount of Google data in particular that Pokemon Go can access is concerning security experts. That includes access to Gmail, Google Drive, search history, Google Maps, and private photos on Google Photo. Note: The company has now released a fix to this issue, but players must sign out of the game, then sign back in to enable that fix.

Security Tips: 
  • Check your privacy settings for Pokemon Go. For iOS, go to Settings, then scroll down and find the Pokemon Go app. For Android, click Settings, then Device Settings, then Apps. Then scroll down to Find Pokemon Go.
  • Understand that this game tracks a player’s location at all times. Many apps use location-based data, including popular social media platforms, like Snapchat and Instagram. Oftentimes, you can turn location sharing off and still use most of an app’s features. Not so for Pokemon Go.

5. What Else Do I Need to Know?

Pokemon Go can be a blast when played responsibly. An easy way to start the conversation: ask your tween or teen to show you how it works. This is a great way for your teenager to share what she loves about Pokemon Go, while also creating the opportunity to talk about what concerns you may have. Good luck!

Diana Simeon

Diana Simeon is an editorial consultant for Your Teen.