It’s been all over social media, it’s morning water cooler talk. Your cousin is looking for Pokéstops at the town hall, your boss is catching Squirtles on his walk to work. For once a video game is the obsession of the grown-up world, but how do you play Pokémon Go with kids?
In case you haven’t caught on to the craze yet, (and you will), Pokémon Go is a bit like a treasure hunt, only you’re collecting digital critters instead of real-life objects. A mobile app uses your phone’s GPS to find your real-world location and augment it with the Pokémon Go map on your phone.
Wander down the street and a Charizard might jump out in front of you, a rare target to catch with a Pokéball. Find your local “gym” and battle your “pocket monsters” against those of other trainers, who are real folks just like you.
Of course, the kids”ll want to hold the phone, so we recommend loading the app onto an old iPhone or Android you’ve got lying around the house instead of your shiny, new iPhone 6s. You’l thank us the first time they get excited at the sight of a rare Pokemon and drop it.
Kid: how did you and dad meet?
Mom: I was playing Pokemon Go
— PokemonGo™ (@CatchEmAlI) July 14, 2016
So it’s a game, it’s exercise, and it’s social. Sounds great for kids, but how do you get them involved safely, and without having them gobble up all your data like a Lickitung?
Age appropriateness is key. While toddlers and preschoolers can help you with activities like spinning at each Pokéstop, and catching Pokémon, the game is best played by kids who are old enough to read and do simple maths. That way they can read about the names and stats of the new characters they encounter.
For kids old enough to wander around and play on their own phones, they’ll likely forget everything they ever learned about road safety and looking both ways before crossing the street. An extra reminder when they go out can help them avoid stepping in front of a car. Or off a cliff.
— The Australian (@australian) July 15, 2016
There’s also the element of stranger danger to consider. Your location is not shown on the map to others, but the game involves things called lures that players set up to attract Pokémon to their area. This also attracts nearby players, and while it can be fun – kids can catch Pokémon together – there is a danger, however remote, that someone with sinister intentions may have set up that lure.
this boy is making badges that light up so kids can be safer playing pokemon go at night…cutest thing ever 😭😭 pic.twitter.com/kx8ffnL0wD
— PokemonGo™ (@CatchEmAlI) July 13, 2016
Besides worrying about what kids get up to while they’re playing out in the world, you also need to worry about what they’re doing – and buying – inside the game. While it’s possible to play without actually buying anything, you can get a leg up by purchasing things like Pokéballs and lucky eggs. Lifehacker recommends that on iOS, you turn off in-app purchases, and on Android create a password for purchases. That way kids can’t use real money to buy anything.
Outside of warning kids to be aware of their surroundings, be savvy about lures, and locking down those in-app purchases, Pokémon Go makes a great game for a family outing. A lot of Pokéstops are at interesting places, like historical markers, so it gives you a chance to learn about your area together. Finding real life animals is also possible, and some wildlife experts are monitoring #PokeBlitz so kids can tag their photos and have the experts tell them what animal they found.
Get out there with your kids, catch a wild Pikachu and stay safe! And if Pokemon Go gets too much, you can always try Chardonnay Go instead!