Pokemon GO safety tips

Ground rules for catching 'em all

Hudson Valley Parent Pokemon Go safety tips for kids

I never thought I’d say this, but the zombie apocalypse is real… and it’s happening now. The worst part is I’m one of THEM!

If you’ve seen hoards of tweens, teens and adults wandering around aimlessly with their eyeballs glued to their phone, you know what I mean.

Pokémon GO

I am (and millions of others just like me) are addicted to it. There I said it.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, allow me to explain: Pokémon GO is a mobile game that involves hunting for virtual Pokémon characters hidden in real locations. The game requires players to explore their communities and to meet new people.

So basically if you want your kids to go outside this summer instead of sitting in the basement playing video games and all your child wants to do is level up on their favorite video game, Pokémon GO might very well be a magical compromise.

However, the game does come along with several safety concerns. Just this week a 14 year old girl was hit by a car while crossing a major highway in pursuit of catching a Pokémon. People have gotten lost in foreign cities, broken legs, been robbed… YIKES.

That being said, you and your kids can absolutely play Pokémon GO safely, you’ve just got to set up some rules before allowing your child to download the free app.

Here are some safety tips I’ve discovered while trying to “catch ‘em all”

1. Look up. Here’s a neat little safety tidbit I discovered while playing Pokémon GO:  If you change your child’s phone settings to vibrate while on silent, your phone will vibrate whenever a Pokémon or a PokéStop is nearby if the app is open. This means your child is free to walk around the block with their head up and alert to traffic and other potential hazards.

To change your settings, follow these steps:
Go to:  Settings > Sounds > Select Vibrate on Silent.

2. Buyer beware. Sure the app itself is free to download; however, the app boasts in-app purchases that range from 99 cents to $100. If you’d rather hang on to that $100 in your bank account instead of trading it in for 2,000 Pokéballs and 125 incenses, I’d suggest disabling in-app purchases all together. There’s really no reason you’d need to buy anything in the Pokémon GO shop, everything you need to become a master Pokémon trainer is available for free if you just “GO”.

To disable in-app purchases, follow these steps:
Go to: Settings > General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions > Scroll down and disable In-App Purchases.

3. Charge on the go. There’s nothing worse than setting out on a Pokémon hunting adventure only to have your phone die as soon as you find a Haunter or Dragonite. Possibly the worst attribute of the game is that it drains your phone’s battery insanely fast. Make sure your kids always have a portable charger with them (just in case of an emergency or if Arceus shows up).

4. Set boundaries. PokéStops can be found all over the place. Most are at historical landmarks, which is a great way to teach your child all about where you live. However, when you’re not out “catching ‘em all” with your child, you should set up boundaries and really enforce them. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the game and end up a mile or more away from home… trust me, I’ve done it while trying to catch a Zubat.

5. Create a team. I’ve heard countless horror stories about people being ambushed by bad guys at PokéStops. To make sure you child is safe, create a “Pokémon Trainer Team” of 3 or more neighborhood kids and parents that you and your child can safely go catching with. You could even set up a chaperone rotation with neighborhood parents.

6. Don’t trespass. Last night when I took out the trash, I came face-to-face with 5 teenage boys who were just hanging out in my front yard (very close to my garage door). At first I was freaked out and contemplated calling the cops until it dawned on me that they were not going to egg my house... I quickly discovered why the kids were in my yard when my phone buzzed; a Charizard was hanging out in my front yard at 11pm. Make sure your kids know that it’s not cool to catch Pokémon in other people’s yards or on any private property. Kids may not think trespassing is a big deal, but in New York trespassing can be considered a felony and can carry some serious penalties.

 7. Walk don’t ride. First and foremost, if you have a teen driver make sure you ban all Pokémon GO activities in the car. Yesterday alone, I saw 5 cars pulled over on the side of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. I can’t say for sure they were all trying to catch Pokémon, but I’ve been driving over the bridge every day for the last 5 years and have yet to see 5 random cars pulled over in the emergency lane seemingly glued to their phones.  I also had a teen driver swerve in front of me abruptly and almost hit me… I looked in her car and saw her holding up her phone trying to swipe up to catch a Pokémon. It doesn’t stop at the car though… make sure your child knows not to ride a bike, skateboard, or scooter while catching Pokémon. It’s impossible to do both at the same time in a safe manner.

Now that you’ve set some ground rules, happy hunting and here’s hoping you and your family “catch ‘em all.” 

Brittany L. Morgan and her fiancé, Bill, can be found catching Pokémon around Fishkill.