Pokemon Go has just become available in the UK today, and it's set to be the biggest mobile app ever, and it's about to take over your children's (and possibly your) lives.
But there are lots of media stories about perceived dangers from the game, as well as those that take the opposite side and proclaim it's benefits. For those parents worried about the news stories here's our guide to Pokemon Go and all you need to know:
What is Pokemon Go? It's an app that can be downloaded to your mobile device where you can catch little cartoon creatures called Pokemon. The big change for this game that is making it so hugely popular is that the Pokemon appear in a real world environment - point your phone's camera around your house or neighbourhood and you see them in your kitchen, garden, or in the park. You swipe the ball on the screen to hit them and catch them.
What are the benefits? The game was launched a few days ago in the US and it has already been praised for getting people out of the house and exercising, as they walk their neighbourhoods looking for Pokemon to catch. It has social benefits as people are meeting up to play too, rather than just sitting at home playing a game alone.
What are the 'risks'? There have been some media reports of perceived dangers coming from playing the game, from those not paying attention when crossing the road, to people driving dangerously as they are playing in the car, people trespassing to catch Pokemon, plus the NSPCC warning about children being 'lured' into dangerous situations, and reports of people being lured and robbed. (Players can 'lure' other to a specific area by indicating that there is a Pokemon nearby.) Also some of the Pokestops where you can collect extra balls, potions and other Pokemon items are in places where you would not want your children to go, for example there have been reports of them being placed outside sex shops and strip clubs.
How do you keep your children safe? Children need a mobile phone to be able to play this game, so most will be of an age where they will be thought responsible enough to play away from home without supervision. But as parents we would suggest setting some very clear guidelines and boundaries about how they play. It's advisable to set a geographical limit on where they can play, and if you would rather them play at home or in the garden then they can still join in and catch Pokemon there. Children will also need a reminder about safe road crossing, as eager children could dash across a road in their rush to catch a Pokemon close by. Younger children can play at home and still catch Pokemon in the house or garden so they're still having fun but under supervision. Guidelines from police include the following advice for youngsters wishing to play:
"If you're GOing hunting, know someone who is, or are a proud and responsible parent or guardian of a budding Pokémon trainer; here's some tips in order to prepare for trouble and ensure everyone stays as safe as possible.
Let family know when and where you are going; stay alert to what is going on around you; do not trespass on private land and avoid dangerous locations."
Players have been altering the settings on their mobile phones to be able to play the game before it's official UK launch, but now it is officially available in the UK on both apple* and android devices.