Safety Risks

Pokémon Go has become a craze with kids across the Globe. But is it safe?

The game has made headlines across the world for the various risks that it poses for children. It is important to educate ourselves about these risks, so that we can keep our children safe, and still have fun! Here is everything you need to know.

Upper body of a male child outside playing Pokémon Go trying to catch a pokemon.
Pokémon Go can reduce awareness of what is around us.

To understand the dangers, we need to know a little bit about the game. Pokémon Go is a mobile gaming app which lets you connect with friends, and collect pocket monsters (Pokémon). But there is a catch! You cannot collect Pokémon from your couch.

To become the very best you must go outdoors, walk around and find poke stops in your local area. Much like a step counter, walking in Pokémon Go means more rewards. This encourages kids to get outside and go explore, but with this comes a host of dangers.

Cartoon red boxing glove with golden star on top.

Physical Risks

The first and most important of the potential risks for Pokémon Go is physical harm. Its very easy to forget what’s in front of you when you are looking down at a screen. Take extra care when crossing roads, and to avoid bumping into pedestrians. There have also been some unfortunate reports of Pokémon Go being used to lure players into traps. The risk of our children physically harmed should thus be our first concern as parents.

cartoon footprints on the ground.

Trespassing Risks

There is a risk that children using Pokémon Go may end up trespassing. Encouraged in part by the game itself, which doesn’t always account for borders or private property. A child could easily cross a real-world boundary, without realising that the game map isn’t the real map. This could get them into legal trouble or put their personal safety at risk.

This is a particular concern if you live near a controlled border, farmland, or a large city centre.

Cartoon Pikachu from behind.

Stranger Danger

When hunting for Pokémon, our children could end up in an unfamiliar place, or in the dangerous side of town. To catch the best Pokémon, the player must go further and further away from home. Without a parent watching over, it would be easy for a child to become lost. The game also encourages meeting other players during battles and raids. Who knows what strangers they might meet without a trusted adult nearby.

Cartoon money bag with a pokecoin symbol on the bag.

Financial Risks

This game offers in-app purchases, allowing the user to buy pokecoins with real money. Kids can then spend their poke funds on in-game items. Such as candy to level up their Pokémon, or new clothes for their avatar. But these virtual items are not cheap. One of the more expansive packs available costs a colossal £79.99! If you set the app up with payment options, your child could end up spending huge amounts of your money in one go. Pokémon Go also requires a lot of mobile data. More data could mean higher costs depending on your data package.

Cartoon man wearing augmented reality glasses with a Pokeball attached to the glasses.

Data & Privacy Risks

Pokémon Go collects various bits of information about our children. Such as their birth date, email address and user ID. The app collects this when you sign up and connect social media accounts (such as Google+). Recently there was controversy about the data Niantic collects from Google. When it was discovered that the app had full access to the players emails, photos and GPS history.


The developers have since apologised for this in an interview with Polygon. Making it clear they had changed the privacy terms. But some parents are not convinced. There is still an issue of trust here, and a risk that our children’s privacy is being intruded upon.

If you worried about data, why not try Pokémon Go Offline?

So is it safe?

This is all starting to sound a bit scary! But don’t worry, by taking the right approach you can make sure that your child is safe whilst playing Pokémon Go. Don’t give up on the app just yet, as it has a range of benefits to offer for physical health, mental health and education.

There are also measures you can put in place to reduce these risks. To learn how to keep our kids safe on Pokémon Go click here.

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality gaming app created by the developer Niantic. The aim of the game is to catch pokémon, level them up, collect items, find PokeStops, battle in gyms and trade.

Hand holding mobile with the Pokémon Go homepage on the screen. Includes Pokémon Go logo and two buttons: returning player or new player.
Pokémon Go home screen.

The game was released in 2016, but since then has continued to grow in popularity. In May 2018 the game saw more players than it had seen since its launch. Becoming the 5th most popular mobile gaming app of 2018. More and more kids are getting on board with the pokémon craze, but why does the game create so much interest?

Pokémon History Lesson

Pokémon has been around since the 90’s. The franchise was created by Japanese video game developer Satoshi Tajiri. He came up with the idea of a world filled with fictional pets, know as pokémon (or Pocket Monsters). These colourful creatures can come in many different varieties and types. Pokémon exploded in popularity after the release of Red and Blue for the Nintendo Gameboy in 1998. Becoming loved by children worldwide. Although nobody predicted its success, Pokémon became the second most commercially successful game franchise in history.

Gameboy cartoon with a arrow pointing towards a iPhone cartoon. Implying technological change.

The Pokémon ripple effect is still seen today, with many games and spin offs finding success. During its lifespan, the franchise has had hits in several areas, including:

  • Handheld games (Gameboy, Gameboy Advanced, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS).
  • Gaming consoles (Nintendo 64, GameCube, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Switch, PC).
  • Playing cards.
  • Television series.
  • Movies.

Pokémon Go was the first attempt made by Niantic at breaking into the mobile gaming market, and it sure did made a splash! Becoming one of the most popular mobile games for children today. The kids are having just as more fun catching pocket monsters today as they were in the 90’s.

Original Pokémon Theme tune from the 90’s spin-off television series.

Augmented Reality

One of the many things that makes the Pokémon franchise so popular is its use of new technologies. Back then it was handheld gaming devices (such as the GameBoy), and today it is augmented reality.

But what is augmented reality?

This is when we use mobile technologies to bring the virtual world into the real world. Apps that use this exciting technology request access to your camera phone. What you then see through the camera looks real, but another layer or reality has been included. For example, animated Pokémon can be added to room. These animated characters are not ordinary images, they move, emote, and you can interact with them.

As you move the camera around, you will see a pokémon appear from the ground. This could be in the living room, the street, a park, the sea, the possibilities are endless. You must try to catch these pocket monsters before they run away. Do this by aiming the phone camera towards them and ‘throwing’ a pokeball (by swiping your finger on the screen). For the perfect catch, you must carefully point the camera and perfect your aim.

Demonstration of Augmented Reality in Pokémon Go, Catching an Ekans in the corridor.

Its a Pokéworld After All

Augmented reality shocked the globe and created excitement about future of mobile gaming. The hype was not only about Pokémon Go. It was also about the potential for AR to make everyday experiences more interesting. Whether it be walking to school, catching a bus or sitting in a waiting room. An opportunity had now opened up to make the boring parts of the day a little more bright.

It is perhaps no surprise then that the Launch of Pokémon Go was the most successful launch of a mobile game to date. Taking the number 1 spot on the Apple app store during its first week. Kids flocked to the game because of its colourful aesthetic and AR functions. And of course, to see their favourite pokémon come to life in front of their very eyes.

This excitement was about to take a turn for the worse. The worldwide news was quick to pay attention to all this buzz, and began reporting on the dangers of Pokémon Go.

A Killer Gaming App

Shortly after the game’s release, the press claimed that children were getting hurt using Pokémon Go. With some reports asserting that kids were dying from playing the game. One website even goes as far to call itself the Pokémon Go Death Tracker. The causes cited for death predicate on a few different factors:

As parents we must be aware of dangers, but we must also shield ourselves from scaremongering. The headlines are often sensationalist or click-bait, and so hold little credibility. In many of the cases, the reports are exaggerated and part of a fear campaign. Not to mention, it can rarely be 100% confirmed that Pokémon Go was the direct cause of the accident. Pokémon Go is regularly used worldwide, with peak downloads of 90.5 million during first week. So it was inevitable that this popular game would be implicated in some cases.

All this negative press seemed to take its toll, as the game declined in popularity over 2016 and 2017. Yet the game has recently saw a resurgence in popularity as of 2018. Since its release, the Pokémon Go has received many updates. Including frequent safety alerts and notifications. These notifications appear when starting up the game, and also when catching pokémon in-game.

Notification screen reading: do not enter dangerous areas while playing Pokémon Go. Ok button.

These notifications are a great addition and help remind our children of potential dangers. With that said, it is still important as parents that we understand the risks of the game. It is easy to feel frightened by news reports on Pokémon Go, but worry not! With a proper understanding it can become a great tool for parents. We promise that the extra effort is worth it. As there are many benefits for our children’s learning, mental health and physical wellbeing.

The first step for staying safe and getting the most out Pokémon Go is understanding how to play. This helps us as parents better understand the ins and outs of the game, and make better choices for our kids.

Getting Started

Understanding how to play Pokémon Go can help us connect with our children. Creating family bonds and building a common interest across generations. Understanding the gameplay mechanics is the first step in this journey.

Understanding how the game works also helps us make more informed choices. Allowing us to decide first hand whether or not this game is suitable for our parenting style.

Here are some of the key things you need to know to get started in Pokémon Go.

Setting up an account

To begin, you must first create an account with Pokémon Go. To do you must follow these steps:

  1. Download Pokémon Go from your mobile app store.
  2. Start up the app.
  3. Click ‘New Player’ from the home screen.
  4. Choose to create an account using your Facebook, Google or Pokémon Trainer Club account.
  5. Read and the Pokémon Go Terms of Service and either ‘Accept’ or ‘Decline’ (you can only continue if you accept).
  6. Make sure to leave the ‘Email me events, offers and updates’ box unticked. This will protect you/your child from intrusive advertisements.
  7. Read the updated Pokémon Go Privacy Policy and then click ok.
Pokémon Go Terms of service notification box. 'We've updated our Terms of Service. Please review and accept before continuing.' Option to tick 'Email me events, offers, and updates. Accept or decline.

Although it can be time consuming, it is important to read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy in full. So that you understand the privacy risks involved with the game.

Now that you have understood the privacy risks of Pokémon Go, do you wish to continue playing? and would you allow your child to have an account?

  • If your answer is NO, how about trying Pokémon Go Offline? This gives you the same benefits, but without the issues of data collection.
  • If your answer is YES, great you are ready to start playing.

Follow on to the next screen where you get introduced to Professor Willow. Listen to what he has to say, as he will explain the world of Pokémon to you. Setting you the exciting task of catching ALL the Pokémon across the globe!

Creating your Avatar

The next step is to create your avatar. First you must choose the gender of your character. You can then personalise their appearance by changing:

  • Hair colour
  • eye colour
  • skin colour
  • hat
  • necklace (female only)
  • glasses (male only)
  • t-shirt
Female avatar in character customisation screen changing t-shirt. Wearing a stiped shirt over a yellow vest, red shorts and black tights.
Female character customising t-shirt.
  • bag
  • gloves
  • belt
  • bottoms
  • socks
  • footwear
  • Character ‘pose’.
Male Avatar in the character customisation screen changing hat. Upper torso only. Wearing a Pikachu hat and a striped t-shirt over a white top.
Male character customising hat.

Don’t worry too much about getting the look right first time, as you will be able to change this later. Not to mention, progression in the game will earn you Pokécoins. Which you can then redeem for premium clothes and items.

The final step for finishing setting up your account is to choose a nickname. This will give your new character a unique personality. But take care not to use your child’s real name.

Create a nickname option in Pokémon Go. Reads 'Enter the nickname that other Trainers will use for you.' The nickname chosen is Anonymous123. Option to click ok.

Example

If your child will be using this account, make sure that you use a pseudonym. Strangers will be able to see this name. So choosing an anonymous nametag is essential for keeping their identity protected.


Navigation

If you haven’t played Pokémon Go before, the on-screen map may seem a little confusing. Here is an explanation of what you are seeing on-screen

Diagram of Pokémon go map screen which is numbered 1 to 10.
  1. This is a Pokémon gym, where you can battle with other players.
  2. this icon shows the current weather, at the moment it is cloudy. Different Pokémon will appear depending on the climate.
  3. The compass button allows you to toggle between two settings. A north facing map and an auto-rotating map (spins as you move your phone around).
  4. This icon is a PokeStop, players must go here to collect items, such as pokeballs.
  5. This is a wild Pokémon, you must walk within radius if you want to catch it.
  6. Your avatar and their location on the map.
  7. This is the profile icon, click on it to expand the menu and reveal your progress and medals.
  8. This is your buddy Pokémon who walks by your side. The more you walk your buddy the more it will level up.
  9. Click the pokeball icon to expand the main menu. From here you can reach your Pokedex (showing all the Pokémon you have caught so far), the online shop and the game settings.
  10. The wild Pokémon bar shows what Pokémon may be nearby. Test your child’s (and your own) knowledge by trying to guess the silhouettes!

Great, so you now understand how to get around. Now it is time to go out, start catching pokémon, and level up your character!

Joining a Team

Once your character has reached level 5, you will presented with the choice to join one of three teams. Team Valor (red), Team Mystic (blue) or Team Instinct (yellow). Once you have chosen a team, you will be stuck with them forever, so it is important to make the right choice for you!

Team valor logo, Red fire bird Pokémon called Moltres.

Team Valor

Team Valor are driven by power and value success. Their supporters are passionate. Seeking out the strongest Pokémon across the world to take into battle.

Team mystic logo, blue ice bird Pokémon called Articuno.

Team Mystic

Team mystic pride themselves on tranquillity and wisdom. They are driven not by emotions but rather though a desire for knowledge.

Team Instinct logo, yellow electric bird Pokémon called Zapdos.

Team Instinct

Team Instinct do not seek power or wisdom. Instead they trust in their own instincts, and the innate power of Pokémon. Choose if you like the underdog.

The team you choose will determine the community you are a part of. It also affect the perks you receive throughout the game, so choose carefully!

Helpful Resources

You should now have a better idea of how the game works and how to play. Now is the time to use this knowledge yo have fun with the kids… or why not try it just for yourself? Pokémon Go is enjoyed by all ages, and has something for everyone.

If you want more tips, or you are experiencing difficulties, please visit the Pokémon Go official support page. There are also many helpful video resources helping you learn how to play.

Here are just a few:

How to catch Pokémon
How to level up and evolve your Pokémon.
How to start playing Pokémon Go: The Basics.

How To Stay Safe

Although there are many risks involved with Pokémon Go, there are also many benefits. Not only is it great for a child’s development, it is also a lot of fun! Here are some strategies to ensure we keep our kids safe and don’t ruin the enjoyment.

Pikachu on Ash's shoulder reading a manual. Reads: How to stay safe on the front cover and Pokémon Go on the back cover. There is a cartoon tick symbol floating next to them.

Drawing the Map

It is important that you set boundaries for where your child can (and cannot) play. This will depend on the area you live in and how safe it is. If you live near private property, such as farm land, make sure you let the kids know they cannot trespass. We like to set the play zone around parks or pedestrianised areas, where there is less cars and traffic.

Having a look at the in-game map is really important here. You can identify the location of gyms and PokeStops (learn more about these here). This will help you negotiate what areas your child can go to, and which PokeStops are out-of-bounds.

Playtime is for the Daytime

It is important we set time limits, making sure our children know what time they need to be back at the house. We recommend setting playtime when it is light outside. This is important for minimising the chances they will be involved in an accident.

If your child is old enough to go out at night, or you live in a part of the world without much daylight, we recommend wearing reflective clothing. Such as a florescent jacket or glowing band. This gives them a better chance of being spotted by vehicles.

Don’t Catch Pokémon with Strangers

Pokémon Go is best played with friends. The game is social by design, and wants to bring a community together to catch them all! However, part of tis involves interacting with strangers. It is important our children know not to talk to strangers unless a trusted adult is around.

Don’t catch Pokémon with strangers’ is the new ‘don’t talk to strangers

Teaming Up

Catching Pokémon is more fun with a friend, it is also safer! When the kids go out to play, make sure they are with somebody you trust.

3 trainers standing next to each other. Characters wearing outfits for team Instict, Mystic and Valor, from left to right.
Find the perfect team and take on the world of Pokémon together!

Having a team will also make the game more fun and engaging. Allowing our children can get the social benefits of the game, such as trading and comparing Pokémon. At the same time, allowing us parents to worry less knowing they are not out alone.

Joining the Fun

The absolute best way to minimise the risks of Pokémon Go is to get involved yourself, and go exploring with the kids. Not only is this safer, but it also makes a great family day out. The kids will appreciate your engagement and interest. Plus having an adult about means more exploring at longer distances, which can a great for a child’s physical health.

And who knows, you might even take a liking to it yourself. Pokémon Go is designed for all ages and plenty of adults use it for leisure or for improving their health.

Security Settings

It is important that we regularly update our security settings, so that your monthly salary doesn’t come in pokecoins!

You can set Pokémon Go up without payment options within the game settings. We also recommend password protecting your accounts and applying parental controls. This allows us to restrict the payment and data options on certain apps, letting us sleep a bit better at night.

Protecting your child’s privacy

To protect your child from unwanted data collection, we recommend that you create a substitute Google account. Ensure this is not linked to your child’s school, or any personal social media account. This minimises the risk of identifying information being collected by Niantic or Google.

When creating a User ID, it is also a good idea that our children use a pseudonym, and not their birth name.

If you are worried about data privacy, and want to save some money, how about trying Pokémon Go Offline?

Preventing Addiction

Gaming addiction is a serious problem, that is why we have dedicated an entire page to this issue. If you are worried your child is showing signs of addiction, you can find help here.

Helpful Resources

Video guides make it easier to digest important safety tips.

Addiction

There is a danger that our children can get hooked to games like Pokémon Go. Gaming addiction is no joke. It is important we put in place measures to limit the amount of time our kids spend on their phone.

Cartoon needle with Pokémon go logo pattern overlaid on top.
Pokémon Go can leave you wanting more and more Pokémon playtime.

When discussing video games, it is important to remember they are commercial products. Game developers want to keep players coming back for more. Why? Because more users means more money. This has fostered a culture whereby video games are designed to be purposefully addictive. Pokémon Go is no exception here.

But how exactly does this work?

Gotta catch em’ all

The urge to collect it the main driving force behind Pokémon Go addiction. There are two types of collectors, aesthetic collectors and taxonomic collectors.

  • Aesthetic collectors gather objects and items based on how pleasing they are, and tends to be more passive.
  • Taxonomic collectors on the other hand want to collect things to improve their social standing, and want to collect all items in a collection.

Kids can spend hours and hours catching and levelling up Pokémon. With the goal of showing off their achievements to their friends. There is a risk that this fosters an environment where taxonomic collectors can become hooked.

The Pokemon slogan itself is ‘gotta catch em’ all’. And whilst this is not meant to be taken literally, children who are susceptible to addiction may take this challenge seriously.

Watching for the signs

We must watch our children carefully for signs of addiction. Some key warning signs include:

  • Aggressive or hostile behaviour during playtime
  • Tired or strained eyes.
  • Demanding expensive in-app purchases to boost their score.

In all scenarios, it is important that we set some limits as to how long our kids can use the app.

Limits and Breaks

We recommend that your child spend no more than 4 hours a day in app. If you are using an iPhone, you can regulate this by using the screen time application in settings.

Make sure that your child is taking regular breaks should they be playing the game for over an hour at a time. Make sure you incorporate other fun family activities during downtime. Telling them to switch off and do their homework too often could cause frustration. Making Pokémon Go the only thing they know as fun and making it a kind of vice.

What we have found works well is getting the kids to earn their video game time. Whether that be through chores, good behaviour or accomplishments at school.

Seeking Help

Should your child be displaying levels of addiction to Pokémon Go that might be considered abnormal, we recommend reading some advice from the NSPCC. Or by calling them on 0808 800 5000.

How To Play Pokémon Go Offline!

Even with all the benefits that can be gained with Pokémon Go, it may still not be the right app for your family. Whether it be due to data and privacy concerns, or simply not wanting to take the risk, we have another option for you to try!

Pokémon Go Offline floating logo.

Although Pokémon Go is a great tool for parents, we recognise that it is not for everyone. Many parents want to bring up there children away from screens. Technology is only one way of bringing the family together. But there are plenty more options. Many parents would rather turn off the screen, and spend some face-to-face time with their kids. We have come up with a way for you to do this whilst keeping the Pokémon world alive!

The Game

You don’t need an internet connection or a mobile phone to play Pokémon Go Offline. All you need is some time and creativity.

There are many benefits to making the switch to the offline version:

  • No data and 3G charges.
  • More affordable for lower income families.
  • More time spent face to face.
  • Less screen-time is good for the eyes.
  • Teaching our children they can have fun without technology.

There is also the possibility to use Pokémon Go Offline in combination with the online version to provide some variety. Or as a tool for restricting playtime and preventing addiction.

So how do you play?

Aim of The Game

The aim of Pokémon Go Offline is to catch all 20 Pokémon on the map. To do this you will be printing off a map and gluing stickers on to this map. Players will need to collect pokeballs and items along the way to the top.

The 3 things that a Pokémon trainer needs:

  1. A map to find Pokémon, Poke stops and Items
  2. A bag to carry the paper cut-outs.
  3. A parent or guardian leading the way.

1: Print-Outs

The first step is to download the printouts available from the resources page. Split in to two categories: cut-outs and stickers.

  • Cut-outs are what you will be carrying around with you in a backpack. These include Pokémon pictures, and pictures of items you will collect when exploring.
  • Stickers are what you will be printing out to stick on to your map. This includes pokémon, a PokeStop and item stickers. Players can only activate a sticker once they reach it on the map.

2: Setting The Play zone

First of all you will need a map of your local area. This is what you will use to explore. If you do not already have one, you can print one out using Google Maps. To do this type in your postcode and zoom out to your desired distance. Make sure that you print on at least A4 sized paper, as you will need space to fit the stickers.

Screenshot of a map with the right-click drop down box open, highlighting the word print.
example map taking from Google Maps. ‘Right click’ on the screen to bring up the option to print.

3: Getting Crafty

Next you must download and cut out all of the Pokémon Go Map Stickers and cut-outs from Resources. Get the kids involved and get crafting using a pair of safety scissors. Next, using a glue stick (or sticker paper), choose where you would like to place each sticker on the map.

Map with stickers placed on top. Stickers include icons of Pokémon, pokeballs, a pokestop and a pokebank.
Example Map using printout from Google Maps.

It is very important during this stage that you know your local area. Ensure that the destinations you choose are safe to explore. We recommend choosing areas you frequent regularly.

4: Go Explore

Now that you have your map and cut-outs ready, it is time to go exploring. Grab yourself a comfortable backpack and place all the cut-outs in your bag. Make sure your child also has a bag, as you will be handing them cut-outs (pokémon and items) as they reach each sticker location on the map.

Pokeball icon with the number 7 on top.

Starting Items

Start off by handing your child 7 pokeball cut-outs (see cut-out index for pokeball info).

We also recommend including an prize for completing the game. Catching all 20 Pokémon will take a long time and involve thousands of steps! We personally use pocket money as an incentive for the little ones to keep on playing.

Good luck!

Sticker Index

Here is an explanation of how each sticker affects the game, and what to do once you reach it:

Stacked pokémon cartoon character icons.

Pokémon

Pokémon stickers are the main objectives on the map. Make sure that you place them in different places, to encourage more exploring.

3 stacked Pokeballs icon.

3 Pokéballs

You need Pokéballs to catch any Pokémon on the map. Although players start off with 7 balls, you will need to collect more. Once you reach this sticker add 3 balls to your inventory.

Pokestop icon. a cube above a diamond above a small circle

Blue Pokéstop

When you reach a blue Poke stop you receive an ultra ball. You will need the ultra ball to catch the Legendary Pokémon Mew. Glue this sticker far away from the Mew sticker for more walking.

Mew pokemon icon.

Mew

Mew is the toughest Pokémon to catch of them all. So glue this sticker far from home and in a challenging (but safe) location to reach!

The pokebank icon. Pokecoin on a bucket.

The Pokébank

When the trainer arrives at this sticker, hand them a Pokécoin cut-out.

Cut-out Index

You will need to have the cut-outs in your bag to give to your child as they reach each sticker destination. Here is an explanation of what each cut-out represents and how they affect the game.

Pokémon Cartoon character icon.

Pokémon Cards

You will need to hand the correct pokémon card to your trainer once they find them on the map. The goal is to collect all of these cards.

Pokeball icon.

Pokéball

You need to use poke balls to catch pokémon. Get the trainer to exchange their poke-ball for a pokémon cut-out.

Ultraball icon.

Ultraball

You will need the ultraball to catch the legendary pokémon Mew. Give the trainer this ball when they reach the blue Pokéstop.

Pokecoin icon. Design includes cartoon Pikachu on the coin.

Pokécoin

This cut-out is acquired by reaching the Pokébank sticker. The trainer can exchange this coin for any Pokémon cut-out on the map. Saving them some walking distance.

Pokeball in middle of star icon.

Star Card

The star card is handed to the trainer once they have beaten the game and collected all Pokémon. Make sure to give your trainer a huge congratulations!

Physical Health

Pokémon Go can be a great way of getting the whole family moving. The game rewards you for the amount of steps you do. The more steps you take the more Pokémon that will appear!

Getting your kids off the couch

It is an all too familiar site in the age of the internet, our kids are in the room but glued to the screen. Often parenting advice will suggest how to get your kids away from the screen. But is this realistic? Mobile phone technologies, apps and games have become a part of our everyday lives. It is harder now than ever to unhook from our devices.

The world has changed and it is important as parents we adapt.

Exercise made fun

Pokémon Go is different to other gaming apps. It involves interacting with real world places. This can make exercise more fun and engaging. It rewards our kids for moving about and getting outside.

When playing Pokémon go, time can fly. After playing the game for a few hours, we found ourselves surprised at how many steps we covered (without even trying). Exercise has never been more engaging or creative!

How does it work?

The gameplay of Pokémon Go itself rewards physical activity. This is done primarily through steps. Taking more steps means better in game rewards, such as:

  • Finding more Pokémon to catch.
  • Visiting PokeStops to collect items.
  • Visiting gyms to battle.
  • Levelling up Pokémon by collecting candy.

The game also motivates the player using an ‘egg hatching’ feature.

For this, the trainer must walk for a certain amount of kilometres for the egg to hatch, revealing an unknown Pokémon inside! The rarer the egg, the more steps you must take to hatch it.

Pokémon Go egg hatching screenshot. Shows 6 eggs and details how many kilometres are needed to hatch each egg. Green eggs require 2 kilometres, Orange eggs require 5 kilometres and Purple eggs require 10 kilometres.
The player must incubate the egg and walk with it. The colour of the egg affects how many steps are required for hatching.

All of this means a lot of walking!

It is perhaps no surprise then that some studies have shown that Pokémon Go has hugely beneficial health effects. For the families who use it, Pokémon Go can lead to thousands of steps in a single day.

If your child is having health issues, Pokémon Go is a great first step to getting them interested in exercising. However, for the best results combine playtime with a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. For guidelines on how to keep your child fit and healthy in the digital age, click here.

Mental Health

Gaming has for a long time been a comfort for children with mental health conditions. Particularly for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or social anxiety. The problem is that gaming apps often reinforce social isolation. Pokémon Go in unique in that it blends the best of both worlds. Bringing comfort, whilst also getting our child back outside and into the world.

Pikachu, Bulbasaur and Charmander inside a head cut-out with cogs for a brain. Pokémon Go logo top left.

Breathing the air feels good

Going outside and exercising can have a range of mental health benefits. Whether it be breathing oxygen, getting sunlight, or exercising the body, what is good for the body is great for the mind.

In fact, studies have shown that exercise is one of the best ways of fighting depression.

You Teach Me and I’ll Teach You

Pokemon Go is a powerful tool because it gets the most socially isolated amongst us moving and back in public settings. In this way it can be one way of helping a child cope with social anxiety.

The game has many in-built social features, such as trading and battling. If your child struggles with making friends, it could also be a great opportunity for them to meet other likeminded kids.

There are many features in Pokémon Go which can help promote inclusivity. Such as team building, trading and battling in your local town. This can make our children feel part of a greater community. Which is particularly rewarding for kids that have been bullied, as it can restore their feeling of belonging and a sense of purpose.

Augmented positivity

Pokémon Go is not simply about escaping our world, it is about adding another layer to the real world. Its augmented reality features reinforce this. Bringing the brightness, joy and colour from Pokémon before your very eyes. We personally have found this can brighten up a cloudy day.

Looking after Pokémon and levelling them up can strengthen a child’s emotional development. Giving them a sense of responsibility and affection for their pocket monsters. Consider it a kind of virtual toy/teddy. Only this one comes with you on all of your walks, grows up as you do, and comes to life.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Kids who are affected by ASD are often receptive to visual gaming. Making Pokémon Go a great opportunity to build their social skills. In fact, one charity in Norfolk is already doing this with a ‘Walk For Autism’ in a local park using Pokémon Go.

This is beneficial because it allows the children to cope with social anxiety, get outside and meet kids similar to themselves.

Caution

Despite all of the potential mental health benefits, there is also the danger of addiction. Releasing endorphins through gaming can improve a child’s mood, but it can also form a dependency.

To learn how to prevent your child from becoming addicted to Pokémon Go, click here.

Education and Learning

Pokémon Go is not just for fun. It can be used to help children learn about a range of subjects, such as geography, history, maths and science. Here are some of the educational benefits we think you should consider.

Pikachu sitting down wearing a graduation hat. Pokémon Go logo top left

Geography and Mapping

To get the most out of Pokemon Go, you will have to fully engage with your local area. Exploring roads, parks, monuments and landmarks, and trying to catch the best Pokémon. An on-screen map will guide you as you do this.

The more our children use Pokémon Go, the better their understanding is of space and place. Map reading skills can help our children become more responsible. Should they ever become lost, skills such as these are essential for finding their way back home.

Alongside this, different Pokémon will appear depending on the terrain and climate. By a lake or the sea, for example, you are more likely to find water Pokémon. This can help foster an interest in ecology, habitats and wildlife.

History

Part of this game requires visiting ‘PokeStops’ and ‘Gyms’, to collect new items and battle. These stops are placed on local landmarks or historical monuments. Once the player arrives at the stop, they can click on the landmark to see a brief description on their screen.

This can educate our kids on local history. And the opportunity to learn about the important sites in town.

Maths

There are many in game metrics which can help a child with counting, addition and subtraction.

For example, you must collect 50 candies to level up a Pikachu to a Raichu. If you have 15 candies now, how many more do you need to collect?

Mental maths questions such as this present themselves throughout the game in a number of ways. Who said maths had to be boring!

Hand Eye coordination

Video games can provide valuable coordination skills for children. This is especially the case with Pokémon Go. Catching Pokémon requires that the user plays a minigame. First they must direct the phone so that it is facing the Pokémon. They will then be presented with a shrinking circle target. If the player can perfectly time throwing a poke ball, when the circle is at its smallest, they will get bonus experience points (XP).

gif of pokemon catching minigame With  shrinking and expanding circle target placed over the pokemon eevee.
Catching minigame in Pokémon Go

This requires a lot of practice and focus. And can help a child control their hand movements in coordination with what they see. Which can have huge benefits later down the line. From driving, sports, art, handwriting and more.

Combined Education

With all of the above mentioned educational benefits, kids can get a lot more out of a combined approach. This requires the active engagement of a parent or teacher.

When visiting historical monuments, use Pokémon Go as an opportunity for a history lesson. Challenge your child with maths sums using pokemon go candies, or even put your kids hand eye coordination skills to the test, by getting them to catch their toys with a tennis ball!

The game is just the start, there is a range of potential applications for Pokemon Go across many subjects and sectors, find out what works best for you and the requirements of your child.