Pokemon GO - some top tips from a parent #PokemonGO.

If you haven't heard of Pokemon Go - thank your lucky stars and move on with your life. I'm talking to those of us who have children and/or  partners who, despite the game not officially being released in the UK, are busy "catching 'em all."

I'm not going to waste too much time explaining in detail the new mobile app which is taking Pokemon fans to a new frenzied level of excitement.  Here's the official trailer from Pokemon.

Think geo-caching blended with top trumps with Pokemon battles thrown in played globally in the "real" world thanks to the magic technical pixies who live in smart phones and tablets - both android and iOS.

Pokemon Go players
My son and his friends hunting Pokemon whilst enjoying a nice walk.

Basically churches, police stations, town halls and museums can become Pokemon gyms and Pokestops. Dotted randomly about there are lures and all sorts of Pokemon creatures roaming the streets and fields, parks and pubs all waiting to be caught by the mobile phone holder who is now a Pokemon trainer. And they all "want to be the best."

 My children have been bitten by the bug and after some slightly iffy adaptation of their gadgets, spend lots of time hurtling into the garden hoping the wifi will stretch so they can catch a Squirtle or whatever. (*Update - the game is now available download  officially in the UK)

Playing Pokemon Go

Yes - I mention wifi. Before your own little darlings talk you into downloading the app on your mobile, be aware the game sucks up battery and data like a Munchlax. That's a Pokemon that eats loads in case you were wondering.

My son's phone went from 53% to 2% in about an hour of Pokemon hunting and he used 60mb of data. Fine if you are on an unlimited plan but not so great if you are PAYG.

If you are off on holiday in the next few weeks- turn their data off as players can access the game in lots of countries all over the world and you don't want to  run up a huge data bill just so they can progress to level 16 and take over a gym.

Having said this, it is a great game for getting your young (and older!) gamers out and about in the fresh air. It's very interactive and in our street all the children are having a fine time running about and shrieking at each other when they find a Pokemon or take a Gym. (My older son holds a local Pokemon gym - for now)

Pokemon GO screenshot

You might want to add some new Pokemon GO specific safety instructions to your e-safety rules at home. There have already been tales of Pokemon GO robberies as nasty folk lure smart-phone holding kids to areas to play then snatch their tech.

Tell them to stick to the usual rules- no arranging to meet strangers, be careful of publishing your location or planned location online and don't head to the Pokemon gym or other locations alone.

Probably a good idea to remind them of some physical safety rules too as although the game does flash up messages warning players to be aware of their surroundings sometimes that elusive Drowzee might be lurking in the middle of the road. This actually happened here about ten minutes ago!

 I've told my children to stop looking at the screen while they cross the road or car parks, even if they are chasing a Pokemon. Ive also told them -don't walk and play or risk walking into trees, lampposts, people, open manholes.....

I'd advise telling your young (or old) players to take regular screen breaks and remind them - it's only a game so if the blue team take over your local Pokemon gym or the server goes down (it does, regularly) it is not the end of the world.

Those parents who have experience of playground fallouts over Runescape or Minecraft will know that these games can grow ridiculously  in importance in young minds requiring adults to step in and calm stormy waters. I've seen my son already slightly panicking as a friend overtook him by one level and some might find this kind of competitiveness incredibly challenging.

We have had to enforce a new "no catching Pokemon at the dinner table" rule and I have just today refused requests to drive slowly past certain landmarks so a player can scoop up Pokemon. If you see erratic driving  - that could well be the parent ( or partner) of a Pokemon fan!

Watch out for Pokemon Go players in the High Street. They will be staring even more intently at their phones than normal and could barge you out of the way as they play. They may not be children either - there are many, many adult Pokemon GO fans.

My plan is to make the most of the outdoor aspect of the game and arrange some outings around the game. I might treat them to a data bundle for the holidays and head for a city or large town where there will be Pokemon aplenty. I can chat to my friends while our assembled children play safely and happily for an hour or so. Then it will be time to turn the gadgets off while we explore the real world.

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