Local authorities have released a warning advisory and another country has already banned the game. Take heed, the dangers of Pokémon adventures can be horribly REAL!

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If junior appears to be oddly enthusiastic about that MacRitchie hike you have planned for the weekend, it could be that they’re — much like their peers — in the grips of Pokémon GO-mania.

Pokémon GO, a smartphone app was launched in Singapore last weekend to much fanfare. The Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force have both published advisories on their respective Facebook pages cautioning players on the perils of playing the game while walking or worse, driving! Overseas, the Iranian authorities have gone so far as to ban the game, for fear of security risks, according to a BBC report.

Here’s some basic details about the game you should take note of:

About the game

For the unacquainted, Pokémon GO is the latest iteration of the Pokémon game — the name of the game, “Pokémon” stands for pocket monsters and is often commonly used to describe the little creatures. It was first unveiled some 20 years ago. The game was played previously using the Nintendo Game Boy or Nintendo DS and 3DS handheld devices.

The objective of the game is for players (called Pokémon trainers) to catch “monsters” using Pokéballs — and use them to defeat other monsters that either belong to other players or are found in the wild. The GO version requires a fair bit of walking outdoors for one to successfully capture all 151 Pokémons.

“Pokémon GO isn’t a game that’s all bad news. As the gameplay will usually require physical activity, it’s a good enticement for your kid to get a good workout.”

The Pokémon GO app uses the GPRS connection on your phone — which can be draining on your phone’s battery — and through a virtual route map, direct players in their search for these illusive monsters and other players. Here are other in-game features parents should know about:

• Pokéstop – denoted with a blue marker on the map (looks like a floating blue cube). Tapping on the marker shows you a picture of a real world monument/building; swiping that picture will reward you with Pokéballs and an assortment of crucial supplies.

• Pokémon gym — these can appear at different locations, much like Pokéstops. Here, you can fight another player’s monsters with your own, and the winner gets “leadership” of the gym (according to team affiliation) and game currency.

• Pokécoins – the virtual currency used in the app which can be purchased using real cash/credit cards or earned by gym fights.

• Incense – a mysterious fragrance used to lure wild Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. Can be bought with Pokécoins.

• Lure Module – a way to attract Pokémon to a Pokéstop for 30 minutes. Other players who might be in close proximity to you can also benefit from its use. Can be bought with Pokécoins.

• Candy and Stardust can be accumulated by finding and hatching eggs (walk a distance) or by catching wild Pokémons.

• The game is free to play on both Android and iPhone.

Click on to read our expert’s opinion on how you can safely integrate the game into family life…

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Pokémon GO isn’t a game that’s all bad news. As the gameplay will usually require physical activity — the only way to find more Pokémons is for one to walk around the vicinity of your home — it’s a good method to entice your otherwise sedentary kid to get a good workout.
Plus, some time in the great outdoors can do wonders in relieving some of that exam stress.

Chong Ee Jay, manager at Touch Cyber Wellness, a non-profit spreading awareness behind new-media literacy, mentions that the game is a good way to build bonds with your young’un.

“This could be made into a well-planned family-fun activity. Pretty much like your family’s own Amazing Race,” notes Chong. With the Singapore Zoo and Bird Parks as Pokéstops, it’s easy to integrate the game into visits to these family destinations.

Chong suggests that you use Pokémon GO as a good starting point to connect with your tweens — and even your spouse — and kickstart conversations. He says, “Tell them what you have caught or where you went to catch some rare Pokémons! Who knows, you might actually turn out to be cooler than they thought?”

If you are planning to leave junior to the game on his own, here are some topics to talk to them about before letting them loose:

“This could be made into a well-planned family-fun activity. Pretty much like your family’s own Amazing Race.”

1) Being mindful of your surroundings

Just as junior should never be wexting — walking while texting — Chong urges parents to ensure that your kid doesn’t end up in places, he shouldn’t be.

“Be careful of loitering around prohibited or restricted areas such as army camps,” said Chong.

Physical safety is also a top concern since some Pokéstops may be situated near “risky areas such as reservoirs, waterways and construction sites”, noted Chong. Some of these Pokéstops may also be at monuments or religious and cultural destinations where they need to display courteous conduct. It’s a good time to share with your child about tolerance and respect for other cultures!

2) Stranger danger

Chong says, “Other players may use [the lure] function in a bid to lure other players, too.” The danger is especially acute since the application relies on GPRS signal to function — other gamers will know your exact position.

Click on to read more tips from our expert!

3) Getting their priorities right

While it is perfect fun for the weekend or as a short break between studies, parents can use the game as a teachable moment for their little ones to practise discipline.

Chong says, “Catching one Pokémon motivates one to continue walking around further to catch the next and the next.” Then before you know it, junior has been at it for half the afternoon!

Stepping in to set time limits on game play or allowing them to only play it on the weekends can help you, if your kids aren’t as good at self-control.

4) Mind the money

Your child might feel the urge to spend real money in exchange for Pokécoins in order to buy certain virtual supplies he will require in the game (such as Pokécoins and Pokéballs).

“This gameplay may also be pretty intensive on your data plan especially when the game requires Pokémon trainers to be out on the go for the full experience,” notes Chong. Not to mention the little matter of draining your battery…

Be sure to put restrictions in place on your iPhone and Android to protect against unintentional or unauthorised purchases!

Chong Ee Jay is a manager at Touch Cyber Wellness, a non-profit spreading awareness of new-media literacy and cyber wellness.

Photos: iStock

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