Playing Pokemon Go Safely: Common Sense Rules for Augmented Reality

. October 1, 2016.
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Pokemon GO may be the first breakthrough game to use augmented reality (AR), but it certainly won’t be the last. The boundaries between virtual and tangible worlds have been blurring for a long time, and new games fuse the two into one irresistible package.

Pokemon GO makes tiny monsters appear everywhere from museums and malls to backyards and kitchens. Entire families have cheerfully headed out into their neighborhoods and beyond to collect as many monsters as they can. But augmented reality also creates risks. As a parent, keep these five P’s in mind as you create game ground rules.

Permissions 

Children under 13 can’t sign up for games unless they have parental permission. Younger children need supervision in augmented reality so play together if you can. Or ask your child to walk you through the game so you can comment on what’s fun and what’s risky. AR apps also ask for permissions when they are installed, and parents should get in the habit of reviewing every request. The best policy is to give each app as little permission as possible.

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Place 

AR games encourage children to explore the world but kids still need boundaries. For kids old  enough to play without direct supervision, be very clear about where they are allowed to go, especially if monsters show up outside of the approved play zone. Remind children to use caution near water, never cross safety barricades and don’t trespass on private property.Traffic is another obvious risk. People staring at phones have bumped into things and stepped in front of cars.Turn the game off while driving or riding bikes, scooters or skateboards.

People 

The best games are often social, and AR is no exception. Chatting with others who are playing in the same vicinity seems natural, and some objectives require teamwork. Most of the people your child encounters will be fellow enthusiasts. But the Pokemon GO game  draws Pokemon— and their hunters— to specific locations, and that creates opportunities for predators. Remind your child that all the usual rules about talking to or going anywhere with strangers apply. Encourage kids to play with friends and reiterate the fact that they shouldn’t go into isolated places like dark alleys or abandoned buildings.

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Price

Apps are seductive because they seem to be free but something is always for sale.  In the case of Pokemon GO, players can purchase Pokeballs, Pokecoins and lures that will make it easier to catch rare specimens. Make it clear that your child needs to get approval before spending real money on virtual goods. Because Pokemon GO depends on GPS tracking, it consumes lots of data. Show older kids how to monitor usage so they don’t exceed the family limit.

Privilege 

Playing any game is a privilege that can be revoked if kids don’t follow the rules. When is it OK to play? When do you expect phones to be powered down? Are there things your child can do to earn extra time? What behaviors will result in suspending privileges? The answers to these questions won’t be the same for every family, but it’s always up to parents to be sure that the allure of AR is tempered with real world common sense.

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Carolyn Jabs, M.A., has been writing Growing Up Online for more than a decade.
She is also the author of Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart, available on Amazon and at cooperativewisdom.org.
@ Copyright, 2016, CarolynJabs. All rights reserved.