Is Pokemon Go safe? Should you let your kids play it? Here’s what parents need to know

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It is only a matter of time before Pokemon Go takes over your kid’s (and maybe your) smartphone.

While the game is yet to be officially released in Thailand and many other countries, there are ways people can download it.

Following its release in the United States, New Zealand and Australia kids and adults are taking to the streets to play the game and it is proving insanely popular.

Players are basically sent on a real life scavenger hunt to try and catch the virtual Pokemon characters, which tracks users movements via the GPS in their smartphone.

The game which has been created by the Pokemon Co, Nintendo and Niantic Inc, which is part owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet uses augmented reality to enable people to play the game in real life locations.

One of the main purposes of the game was to get people out and active. The other of course was for it to make money and its seems to be overwhelmingly successful in both.

Pokemon Go is already estimated to have been downloaded on 3 percent of iPhones in the United States, thought to be around 4 million devices.

Figures released earlier this week by analytics firm Similarweb revealed that users are already spending more time playing the game than on Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat. Its surge in popularity has been mirrored by a surge in Nintendo’s share value, which has jumped almost 30 percent since Monday.

However, its popularity has come at a cost for some users and has left some parents concerned for the safety of their children who are taking to the streets to play the game hoping they will catch a Pokemon.

A teenager playing the game in Wyoming followed directions to a river where she found a dead body.

In another incident, armed robbers in Missouri used the game to lure eight players to a location where they proceeded to rob them.

Add to that the countless injuries being sustained by players who are walking around busy cities and crossing roads while staring at their smartphone.

In the UK, kids who were looking for one of the game’s Poke Stops were directed to a back street sex shop.

While in Australia, players also on the lookout for a Poke Stop were directed to a methadone clinic in Sydney, around the the same time players in Adelaide found themselves at nudist beach.

UK children’s charity the NSPCC released a statement earlier this week saying it was worried the game could be “susceptible to being hijacked by those who may wish to harm them”.

There are other, less serious concerns but ones which parents should also consider about the game.

While Pokemon Go is free to download, it does have in app purchases which can enable players to buy extra features, known as ‘lures’.

Before you let your kid loose on Pokemon Go, you might want to update your parental control settings to prevent in app purchases from your device.

You should also think about your mobile data plan, as it requires phone data to play the game.

There are also concerns about the amount of permissions the app requires from users.

Earlier this week a security researcher described the game as a “huge security risk” after he found that iPhone users who had signed up to the game using their Google account had inadvertently given Pokemon Go access to all their emails, photos and search history after the app requested ‘full permission’ to their account. However, Niantic has now confirmed the issue has been resolved.

Also this week, cyber security firm Proofpoint found that hackers are using fake versions of the app to infect Android devices with malware.

Is Pokemon Go safe? Here are 5 safety tips for parents and kids

Use common sense

You need to be looking at your smartphone to play the game but don’t get so caught up in Pokemon Go you forget to look when crossing the road or play the game while driving – it is only a game afterall.

Protect your identity

Pokemon Go shares your location and nickname with other users, for this reason, it’s probably not a good idea to use your real name or even a nickname that reflects your identity. This is especially true if your kids start playing the game.

Don’t go to unfamiliar locations in search of Pokemon

We told you about the incidents with the sex shop, nudist beach, methadone clinic and dead body. Don’t let your kids (or yourself for that matter) wander off to places they don’t know in search of Pikachu.

It’s not totally free

While Pokemon Go might be free to download, it does include in app purchases which range from around $1 up to $99 (approc 3500 Baht) so be sure to set limits on what you or your kids can spend.

Have a break

If you thought your kids already spend too much time on their smartphone, you just wait until Pokemon Go is released in Thailand. Make sure they have a break from those screens!

 

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