Like with any new concept, app, program or tech, kids are obsessed while parents are left wondering what the heck is going on. As my husband’s family piled in town for the fourth of July this year, many of the older kids and a few adults were off Pokémon hunting every night when the little ones were finally in bed. At one point, my father-in-law came into the living room and asked where half the adults had gone. Someone nonchalantly replied, “They went to catch Pokemon,” and he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
That entire interaction does a pretty good job of summing up how readily we accept foreign concepts when the young generation stumbles upon something new. When it’s your own child, the reaction is generally a bit different though. As parents, we have questions: Is this safe? Who knows your location? What exactly do the features entail? Who are you interacting with? And so on.
But when the newest, biggest thing sweeps over the world like this, kids will play it, and fortunately for parents, Pokémon Go isn’t something that keeps children sitting on the couch staring at the television. To create peace of mind and know everything you can about the technology your children are endlessly asking to use, where to take precautions and what is being said about the app that isn’t something to actually worry about.
1. Can people actually see your kid’s location?
The short answer is “no.” Players location must be turned on to play (unless you can’t locate Pokémon), but at no point is user information or location shared or visible to any other users. But what about the article regarding Pokémon Go players being targeted and robbed? That has happened but luckily has nothing to do with viewing players’ location. It’s also easily avoidable. There’s a feature on the app called a “Lure Module” that allows players to put out a lure (at designated spots only) to attract rare Pokémon. This is also visible to other players within close proximity, who often come to the designated spot to also catch the rare Pokémon. There were a couple instances where people took advantage of this feature and used it to rob unsuspecting players. It sounds scary, but it’s just like putting rules in place when children go anywhere/do anything (don’t talk to strangers, don’t drive in this area at night, etc.). If it’s a concern, easy solutions include: discuss designated spots your children are allowed to partake in “Lure Modules,” require they go in groups, ask they stay in their vehicle (if they can drive/have someone drive them) to partake or just restrict the feature altogether.
2. What’s all this about Google and data access?
Originally, an error allowed Google access to players’ account and data but has since been updated. To verify and explain, Pokémon Go released a statement reading, “…Pokémon GO only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected. Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon GO or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.”
3. Will my child walk out into the middle of a busy highway?
It’s the same concept as using a smartphone for text, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so on. The only difference is Pokémon Go specifically tells users when they open the app, “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” There are occasions where a Pokémon may be in an odd or busy location, in which case it’s best to remind kids to use their best judgement and watch where they’re heading. If you’re worried about children paying close enough attention, send them with an adult or restrict app usage to areas you’re comfortable with.
4. Will I go over on data?
Honestly, it’s possible, depending on how much the app is in use. Because the app requires a phone to constantly use GPS and is probably not connected to wifi much of the time the app is in use, you may want to check your data plan. Easy ways to cutdown on data usage include double clicking your home button and clearing the app each time it’s not in use, setting daily time restraints for the app or using a hotspot to keep connected to wifi/off cellular data usage.
5. Will it cost me anything?
As long as you’re aware of your data plan, it doesn’t have to cost you at all. The app is free to download and play. There is (as with any app) the option for in-app purchases, but they’re not necessary to play and they’re not popping up on the app as ads every 10 seconds (or at all). However, if you think your kids might make their way to an in-app purchase unknowingly (or knowingly), simply turn on parental controls, which prevents access to purchases.
It’s always good to stay in the know and make sure you’re fully aware of what your kids are playing. Although it’s easy to get frustrated when a new fad takes over and your kid becomes a nonexistent zombie, there are actually a lot of positives to this new Pokémon Go trend. Kids are heading outside, walking around and getting a ton of exercise. Kids are also exploring and being forced to become familiar with their surroundings and new areas. There have also been moms with socially challenged or autistic children who say the app is effortlessly causing their kids to communicate and interact with others.
So, if you’re on the fence about the app, don’t be too quick to judge and don’t take clickbait headlines to heart. It really is a new, fun concept that’s getting kids moving and socializing again. But like with anything, it’s good to be knowledgable and take necessary precautions.
For more info, to stay up to date or to connect with other moms whose kids, husbands or selves are playing Pokémon Go, visit the PokeMOM Go Facebook Group!