Kids & the Pokémon Go Craze: Everything Moms Need to Know

little girl on smart phone

 

Unless you've been living under a rock (or somewhere else with no access to social media), chances are you've noticed that Pokémon Go has pretty much taken over the world -- and if your kids aren't playing the new Nintendo game app yet, chances are they will be very, very soon. The only question is, um, what is Pokémon Go, exactly? If you're in the dark, don't worry -- you're not alone. We consulted with Clayton Ostler, tech expert and chief product officer at Net Nanny (which provides families with Internet filtering services), to find out what parents need to know about the latest trend -- and guess what? There are some surprising benefits to playing!

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Here are all the questions you probably have -- and all the answers.

1. First of all ... WTF is Pokémon Go?

While most video games are a solitary, sedentary experience, Pokémon Go is "essentially a digital scavenger hunt," said Ostler, that will actually get your kids outside (potentially) and playing with others (sort of).

2. How does it work?

"It uses your phone's GPS and clock to detect where you are geographically located and randomly displays items for collection," Ostler told CafeMom.

"As you move around to different geographic locations, more types of Pokémon will appear for collection. The general concept is to gather these items and find rare or powerful items along the way."

3. Aha! So that's why people are randomly pulling over on the side of the road and trespassing on private property -- all in the pursuit of imaginary creatures?

Yep. 

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4. So how is it a "social" game?

"In additional to this augmented reality portion of the game, the game also defines real-world locations as 'Pokémon Stops' or 'Gyms' where players are guided to these locations," explains Ostler. "These locations are shared with all players of the game and can be places to collect additional items or engage in 'battles' or join teams, etc." 

Sounds pretty cool, right? Except, wait -- GPS locations are shared with "all" players of the game.

5. Does that mean a bunch of strangers who also happen to be playing Pokémon Go are going to know exactly where my kid is hanging out in the real (not virtual) world?

Er, technically. Which brings us to ...

6. Isn't that dangerous? 

"As the game is played, your child's GPS location is made known to other players, and this could include people who are inappropriately older or may not have the best of intentions," warns Ostler.

"Although identity details are not shared about your child, the game can guide them to locations that may not be physically safe or could be very secluded," he continued. "This can introduce risks from the surrounding environment or from other players."

Okay, so that's pretty scary. Plus, as Ostler pointed out, many of the usual risks associated with video games apply to Pokémon Go, too.

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"Like other game apps, players could find themselves playing for significant amounts of time," he said. "Increased screen time activity that takes away from other activities such as sleep, homework, work, or family time could have negative effects as well."

7. So how do I keep my kid safe?

"Just like any app or game, parents will want to create restrictions or set up limits on when it is appropriate to play the game and how much time the game should be played," recommends Ostler. "Because this app generally moves kids outdoors, it would be wise for parents to limit the times they want their kids playing the game."

All that said, however, there are some good things about playing Pokémon Go -- under supervision and with the appropriate boundaries in place, of course.

8. So, what are the potential benefits?

"Playing this game could have educational, problem-solving, and exercise-related benefits," said Ostler. "This game is also more interactive when played as a group than many video games that give little real-world interaction."

Bottom Line:

So as far as video games that will threaten to consume every waking moment of your child's life go, it actually sounds like Pokémon Go has the potential to be a somewhat positive distraction -- provided you're keeping tabs! (And don't get too caught up in the chase yourself!)

pokemon go details 

Image via iStock.com/zlikovec and Nintendo/Niantic

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