pokemon go

If you’ve recently asked yourself, “What the heck is Pokémon GO?!” you’re not alone.

Of course, you could ask your kids…but they’re probably out exploring the neighborhood on the game (and eating up your data plan in the process). Here’s what you need to know to keep them–and yourself, if you decide to play – safe.

What it is

Pokémon GO–part of the famous video game franchise Pokémon–is a free “augmented reality” game for smartphones. Released earlier this month, it quickly became a viral phenomenon to a level Pokémon hasn’t seen since the TV show and card game debuted in the 1990s. The term “Pokémon” means “pocket monsters,” referring to hundreds of fictional little creatures that inhabit the Pokémon universe.

Think of Pokémon GO like a digital scavenger hunt: you physically move around the real world to catch and train the little critters, which only appear digitally in the app. The app tracks your location using GPS, and you can check in anywhere to find Pokémon and the gyms to train them–from popular landmarks to remote swamps.

Sounds like fun. What’s the problem?

It doesn’t take a Pokémaster to realize that a bunch of people wandering real streets with their eyes glued to their phones could be a problem. While the Pokémon may be fictional, the safety concerns presented by the game are all too real.

All over, reports are rolling in of distracted players getting bruises, scrapes and broken bones. In Washington, the State Department of Transportation issued a warning about playing Pokémon GO while driving.

Scarier still, criminals in Missouri used the app’ s GPS data to lure players to remote locations and then rob them.

How can I play safely?

It might seem like common sense, but if you’ve got Pokémon GO fever, here are a few reminders:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when playing the game.
  • Never play when you’re behind the wheel. (In fact, just put your phone away while driving!)
  • Be cautious when broadcasting your location on apps or social media – criminals could use that data to target you online or in person.

Remember: Even finding the elusive Charizard isn’t worth putting your real-life safety at risk.

Speaking of scavenger hunts, here’s something that’s not that hard to find: a local ERIE agent. In fact, you can look one up near you without even leaving the house. Click here to find an ERIE agent in your community.