Wednesday, July 13, 2016
A Parents' Guide to Pokemon Go
When I was a kid, there was a product, probably a toy, with the slogan, "the sensation that's sweeping the nation" - I have long since forgotten what the amazing product was, but the slogan has managed to stay with me all these years and I was reminded of it after last weekend's Pokemon Go craze. If you haven't caught the fever, I'm willing to bet your kids have, or know kids that are already collecting. You may have even seen them yourself - kids roaming the neighborhood or cars pulling over suddenly.
While Pokemon has been around for more than 17 years, in a variety of formats, Pokemon Go is the newly released mobile App from Niantic Labs in collaboration with the Pokemon Company (of which Nintendo owns 32%) . Despite launch problems and criticism, the App added $9 BILLION to the Nintendo Market Capitalization. That's Billion with a "B". So despite what you may think about Pokemon, the craze is real and it's not just for kids based on the number of my adult friends claiming their obsession with finding all the Pokemon in their towns.
The App is free to download; however there are some items that players can spend real-money (in-app purchases) to get. Based on the number of downloads, that could add up quickly for Niantic Labs. So besides In-App purchases, what does a parent need to know about this new game?
Well for starters, Pokemon Go uses GPS data to turn real locations and neighborhoods into Pokemon hunting grounds. That means your location finder is ON when your child is using the app. The interface is pretty easy to use and encourages users to get outside, walk around and explore their surroundings, a lot like geocaching. A camera feature allows users to take pictures of the animated Pokemon interacting with their environment. A quick search of Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat turns up plenty of examples. That said, one of the biggest draws of the game -- turning city streets and landmarks into game locations -- has caused the biggest safety concerns, as it's easy for players to venture into unusual locations or encounter strangers during their hunt.
How do you get started with the game? First you need an iTunes account, and then you simply download the app from the iTunes store. Take note that the App is optimized for smartphones - NOT for tablets. I put the App on my iPhone, for my 9 year old to use. The app will ask your birthday, and it's rated for ages nine and up. After that, the player creates a username and an avatar and you're ready to get started.
My kids are older, 15 and 9, but I have reminded them that "we" would not go after a Pokemon, anywhere that "we" wouldn't normally go. Nor would "we" go without letting mom or dad know first. There are already rumors and stories about unsavory adults luring unsuspecting kids with the promise of catching a Pokemon. Of course, it's possible, so as with any social network, there are risks involved and being vigilant and monitoring what's going on are great ways to stay on top of any potential problems. So don't let fear stop you from enjoying a fun and popular game, just be smart and keep aware of your surroundings!
Gotta catch 'em all
catch you soon -