Pokemon Go is the hottest mobile game on the market, so of course our kids want to catch them all! There are also potential pitfalls to allowing our kids to set up and play the game without adult supervision. So let’s talk about how to keep kids safe playing Pokemon Go. The Mobile App from the company Niantic, a spin off of Google’s Alphabet has quickly become the most downloaded mobile app.
To play the game, you need to create an account. You can do this in either of two ways. First, you can set up an account on the Pokemon website. The problem is that there are so many new users of the game. This has caused the Pokemon site returns the message that it is not currently able to start new accounts. Second, you can set up an account through your Google Account. Which then exposes the data you have on your Google Account, if you do not take steps to safeguard your account.
In this guide I will offer tips and resources on how to protect your and your child’s data and privacy. Now, the super simple answer is to not play the game at all. That would actually be too bad, as the game has gotten high praise for it’s ability to motivate people to get exercise as they have to physically move around in the real world to move their character around in the virtual world of the game.
So let’s talk about some ways to play the game safely. We will cover the technical pieces of signing up for the game in a way that will protect data and privacy. then we will cover some basic common sense rules about internet safety.
Setting up Pokemon Go Safely on your Devices
When the game was first released, signing up with a Google Account by default granted the app permission to access any gmail, google documents, photos, files from google drive, and more. Niantic is currently working on a fix for this, but in the meantime, if you sign up with a Google Account to play the game, you must turn off the permissions that the game has from within your Google Account. First, you will need to log in to the Google account you used for setting up the game. Then go to the Security Settings Page. Select and click on the option for “connected apps and sites.” On that page click on the blue “Manage Apps” button. Select Pokemon Go and click it to change or turn off the access the game has.
People are also create alternative, or “disposable” Google Account to further separate their accounts and keep the game separate. It will also keep their data more secure. If you do set up one of these accounts, I still recommend setting up parental controls and all other age appropriate settings on a new account. The above information applies not only for Pokemon Go, but applies to every app that you or your children are using on these devices.
Common Safety Guidelines
There are some common safety guidelines for keeping kids safe playing Pokemon Go. The game itself is tied into the location of the user. So there is a risk of encounters with strangers. There should always be some adult supervision of young children playing the game. The game captures the location of the device, so if you don’t want it broadcast where you are at certain times or locations, you should not open the game in those locations. The game requires physical movement to capture Pokemon. Be aware of physical surroundings such as traffic on streets or other safety issues that require attention.
Create a screen name that is not your child’s or your real name. Right now, the only information shared on every player, is the Player’s screen name, and a generic designed male or female avatar (cartoon icon) of the player. To ensure greater protection, choose a screen name (Nickname) that does not easily identify your child.
The game allows you to take photos while in the app that shows the Pokemon against the background of the real world. Make sure you do not capture photos of items that can reveal information that may be captured in the photo. Things to keep private would be: house numbers, license plates, documents, financial information, or any other sensitive material.
Obeying the Law
News stories report of individuals committing crimes while playing Pokemon Go. Trespassing on private property, illegal entry to a restricted area, and Loitering have all been reported as committed by players. Police and other authorities post notices and warnings to Pokemon players to instruct them that their actions may bring legal and criminal repercussions. Players should be aware that the game is a proximity based game. That means that you can typically be near an area, without directly entering the area to interact with a Pokestop or Gym or to capture a creature.
It should be crystal clear: The real world laws trump any virtual Pokemon rules.
Finally, similar to driving and texting, driving while playing Pokemon do not mix! The driver of the vehicle should never be operating a mobile device while driving. If passengers are playing the game, the driver should not perform reckless actions trying to aid the passengers in playing the game. Niantic is working on a fix that will disable gameplay if GPS reveals that the player is travelling at speeds over 5 miles an hour.
If you can take some basic steps, the game can be enjoyed safely. The fact that this game encourages kids to go outside and become active while playing a game, is wonderful. Many games encourage a sedentary couch sitting position. Games that encourage exercise should be a game we can allow our kids to enjoy in a safe manner. Let me know any other steps or tips you have for keeping our kids safe in the comments below.