The summer is here and it’s time to go outside and enjoy the sunshine – or catch some little monsters. As Pokémon Go has become an overnight hit since its release less than two weeks ago, it may be good for kids and parents to get some background information. The game is fascinating and fun – but the first warnings on sites such as Common Sense and Medienratgeber ‘Schaut Hin!’ have already popped up, some for good reason.

Some advice on dealing the the Pokémon Go! phenomenon by NMS teacher and head of IT Annemieke Akkermans is below.

Twenty years ago, Pokémons became all the rage. Gotta catch ‘em all! was the slogan – and masses of kids and teens set out to do just that. The Nintendo game, the series, the cards.... Pokémon was more than a hype; for some people it became their entire social network. Pokémon started as a hobby of Satoshi Tajiri from Tokyo, who liked to catch and collect insects as a child. It became a little bit bigger than that, taking over Japan and then the rest of the world by storm. Every year new Pokémons, more spin-offs and even a musical was released.

Now, since July 6th 2016, only a few weeks after appearing in your kids’ phones – and the phones of everyone else –, Pokémon Go seems to be the biggest mobile game ever with 11 million active users (and growing), beating user numbers of Twitter and Candy Crush Saga (you may not know it, but yes – it’s popular). You may have repeatedly asked your son or daughter to get out in the fresh air and play outside, rather than sit in front of a screen and game, game, game. With an enticing mash-up of Google Maps and a virtual scavenger hunt, Pokémon Go is the first game which has actually managed to get your kid outside – looking to catch Pokémons. Whereas fresh air is a good thing, there are some things our students and your children may want to look out for, so they can enjoy catching Pikachus and Ratatas without any problems.

First of all, some common sense advice. Keep your eye on traffic at all times and do not play while biking or skating; it is a sure recipe for physical injury. Especially younger kids should not go outside their usual playing environment, whether that is the park where they are with parents, or the playground. The best thing is to play with one or more friends – where someone always keeps an eye on the street instead of the screen. Do not go to Pokéstops in empty buildings or remote places – people have already been robbed or hurt in such situations. Stay on familiar grounds and tell your parents where you go. Playing the game will take a toll on your battery, so make sure you keep it charged and that you can still use it to contact your parents in case you need to.

Pokémon Go has an age limit of 6 in the Play Store, and of 9 in the App-Store. The German Game Advisor (Spieleratgeber) NRW on the other hand, suggests an age limit of 12+, as the game requires personal data, allows contacts with other players (who may be unknown), includes in-app purchases and may lead to dangerous traffic situations. Players have to create an account with the Pokémon Trainer Club, and require an email address for this. Kids under 13 need to have their parents’ permission. The game needs permission to locate your position, and it is a good idea to turn this feature off when you don’t play. Most important is that you don’t use your real name, but rather a pseudonym that keeps you anonymous. Twitter is full of screenshots from all over the world, featuring little monsters sitting on desks, lurking under beds, in gardens, playgrounds, beaches and so on. Especially kids should not post any screenshots that give away any personal information or the places you visit.

Planned for future release is an optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, the Pokémon Go Plus, which will alert users when a Pokémon is nearby. Mobile device down-time agreements between parents and children may get even more important, in order for kids and teens to stay focused during family gatherings, sport activities and homework time. One last bit of advice, for parents (and students who have the stamina to read all the way to here :-)); play Pokemon Go – or any other game – together with your child or teen! It helps to understand what the game is all about – and may give you new common ground. For all gamers; don’t let Pokémon Go catch you; go outside without your phone, play tag or football, go to the beach and give those monsters a break as well.

Annemieke Akkermans
Teacher/Head of IT NMS

Photos by Annemieke Akkermans

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24.09.2023 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin