Unless you've been completely off the grid for the last week, you've at least heard of the latest tech phenomenon, Pokémon Go. According to a vox.com article "Pokémon Go uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon "appear" around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game." I had to look that up, because I seem to be one of the few people who have yet to download the free app on my phone and start hunting Pokémon. (Since it's release last Thursday, it's set to overtake Twitter in number of daily active users on Android.)
This sounds pretty awesome, right? A video game that makes you GO OUTSIDE?! It's every parents' dream. I actually think augmented reality is a pretty cool idea, with so many possible applications for the interplay between our tech world and our real world. But like all new and cool things, there are a few concerns here, too.
If you love to Pokémon Go, or your kids love it, take a few moments before you continue the epic quest for Pikachu and look over these safety tips:
1) Don't Pokémon Go it Alone. Parents, this is a great chance to get out and explore your city with your kid(s), or beat them to all of the Pokémon and watch them cry. If you are old enough to be wandering alone, go on your merry way all by your lonesome, but at your own risk. Four teenagers in Missouri were recently arrested for using the Pokémon Go app to figure out secluded locations where other players would be visiting, and robbing them at gunpoint.
2) Don't Pokémon Go and Drive. If texting and driving is a bad idea (I think we can all agree it is) than trying to catch a loose Squirtle on the interstate is an equally boneheaded move. It puts your life and the lives of those around you at risk. So put the phone down for a bit, I promise Pokémon will still be there when you arrive safely at your destination.
3) Don't Pokémon Go Yourself into a Hole. Or into oncoming traffic, or into a tree. All of these are bad. Basically, look up from your smartphone every few steps and pay attention to your surroundings. It can be very easy to get caught up in your phone screen and forget about the dangers and hazards present in the real world around you.
4) Don't Pokémon Go Places You Shouldn't. Most places in Pokémon Go are public places, but that doesn't mean you won't get stopped and questioned by a police officer for wandering around a courthouse at 1:00 AM trying to capture a Zubat. You'll just have some awkward explaining to do. Remember, trespassing is still trespassing even if you catch a Caterpie. If you find a place on the map that makes you feel nervous, uneasy or you wouldn't normally go - don't go. It's not worth any extra points in a game. There's also the risk that "Gyms" (a place where people can visit with their app to train their fictional characters) end up being private residences. I'm sure you wouldn't want your child running on to someone's private property or up to their door to catch more Pokémon.
5) Don't Let the Hackers Pokémon Go onto Your Smart Phone. Oh look, something new and awesome in the tech world! Of course hackers have already figured out a way to create a fake version full of malware that is almost impossible to distinguish from the real app. You only need to worry if you downloaded the Pokémon Go app off of a sketchy website and not an official app store. If that's the case, read this article with tips on how to check and see if you have the infected version on your phone.
Use common sense and have a blast. Enjoy being outside, meeting other Pokémon Go fanatics and exploring your city! Let me know if I forgot anything we should add to this list.