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Pokémon GO – on the hunt for the monsters

4 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Tool description
© photothek.net

After the highly acclaimed launch of the game app Pokémon GO in 2016, there continue to be enthusiastic players worldwide and more and more of these little monsters, called Pokémon. Maybe you know Pikachu, Glumanda and Shiggi from your own childhood – from trading cards or the video game.

In brief

  • free game app, in-app purchases possible
  • Playable in many languages; in Germany since July 2016
  • available for iOS and Android operating systems
  • Age recommendation according to USK from 6 years, according to iTunes App Store from 9 years, according to Spieleratgeber NRW from 12 years

What is Pokémon GO?

In Pokémon GO, the player becomes the trainer. He or she collects Pokémon all around the environment. These are developed, trained and can compete against each other in battle.

Pokemon GO is a so-called location-based game app that only works with an Internet connection, GPS turned on, and camera access. On the cell phone display, the surroundings are shown as a virtual map. On this, the little monsters appear when you move with your smartphone (outdoors). In addition, in some places there are so-called Pokéstops, where you can collect the Pokéballs and other accessories that are important for catching Pokémons, or arenas, where Pokémons of different players compete against each other.

To find certain Pokémons, the player must go to certain places. Because the numerous and different monsters can be found in different places, depending on their strength and characteristics.

What fascinates children and young people about Pokémon GO?

The fusion of reality and play certainly inspires not only children and young people. Playing online with Pokémon GO is easy via smartphone, even outdoors and together. You can take the smartphone out of your pocket at any time and search for new monsters in the immediate vicinity. It’s like an exciting treasure hunt or relieves boredom while waiting for the bus, for example.

The different levels of the game also make it entertaining and attractive for young people: collecting and evolving monsters, fighting against each other, competing with each other by leveling up, and constantly evolving the game with new gadgets and new Pokémons. In recent years, more and more events and promotions are being offered for which gamers can buy tickets and network online or offline in real time.

What is problematic about the offer?

Since Pokémon could theoretically appear anywhere on the road, users of the app tend to always have their eyes on the cell phone display, so caution is advised in traffic. As an add-on, the manufacturer offers the Pokéball Plus: a plastic ball that is connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth and vibrates when a Pokémon appears.

The app can also tempt you to visit unfamiliar places on your own, enter inaccessible places like construction sites, or run off at night to catch certain Pokémon. Make firm rules of the game here. Your child should always go on a quest accompanied by a friendly player, and a parent or guardian should always be aware of the locations visited.

Since there are always new Pokémon, the game virtually never ends. The more and stronger Pokémon you have, the higher your game level. Many children and young people like to compare themselves with each other and want to be better than the others. That’s why the app tempts you to want to keep playing. In the rules for game use, you should therefore determine together with your child how long and how often he or she may access the app.

In terms of data protection, Pokémon GO is subject to some criticism. In order for your child to use the app and go on a Pokémon hunt, GPS reception on the smartphone must be activated at all times. You have to give the app many more permissions, including access to the SD card and the camera. It is not clear to what extent the manufacturer Niantic uses all this data or could use it in the future.

The game is financed via
In-App Purchases
. You acquire virtual Poké coins through game progress or for real money, and in exchange you can get more or less important items. Accessories are also offered in miracle boxes, for example, eggs from which Pokémon hatch. These boxes are also called Lootboxes because the actual value of the content is a matter of luck. To avoid tempting your child, you as a parent can deactivate in-app purchases on iOS or password-protect them on Android. Because even without these in-app purchases, the game is fun!

The game was put under the microscope by Stiftung Warentest in 2019 and was the only one of the games tested to receive the second-best category of “Questionable”, whereas all the others received an “Unacceptable”. The only problem is data privacy: The name of the mobile provider and usage statistics are passed on to third parties, and the privacy policy is not understandable for children.

What does the provider think?

On the official website of the U.S. game manufacturer Niantic and when launching the app, among other things, the above-mentioned problems are pointed out and tips for safety are given. In addition, guardians are advised to use parental controls in the settings of cell phones. This can be used to limit game time and in-app purchases. Through the Niantic Kids Parent Portal, parents can set up, manage, and customize their child’s game accounts before their first game. More information offers the in-app purchases

What should parents pay attention to?

Your child is eager to go hunting for Pokémon? Here you are faced with the task of assessing whether your child is aware of the risks being addressed. In addition to data protection issues (especially constant location tracking), this includes whether your child already understands the principle of “augmented reality” – that is, the merging of reality and play.

Always download only the original app (from Niantic). Third-party apps are often infected with malware.

You, as the parent or guardian, must set up a separate children’s account for children under 13. It is recommended to create a new account and not use an existing Google account. Use the Niantic Kids parent portal to manage your child’s game account.

It’s best to discover the game together with your child and agree on rules for the duration of the game, the permitted play radius and in-app purchases. Team up with friendly families and don’t let your child go off on their own. Maybe the game is a good opportunity for a joint Pokémon walk in the fresh air!

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