Have you been out in public lately and saw somebody holding their phone stretched outwards and looking around? Well, it’s probably not a selfie they’re doing, but Pokemon Go. 

Unsure of what it is? Pokemon Go is an augmented reality mobile game. How it works if you use your camera phone to look at the world around you to find imaginary animals, or Pokemon, to capture. It’s the latest trend right now and it’s not just for kids. In fact, at the time of writing this, I have seen more 30+ year old people play than children. Last night in downtown Norman, I watched as a group of middle aged people flicked poke balls at imaginary pocket monsters. When a product crosses the age barriers, then you know it’s something to keep an eye on. How long this will last before it plateaus and what implications this will have on marketing/advertising is a different story. What we’re here to talk about right now is safety and security while playing. 

Why would safety and security be a concern in a video game? In Pokemon Go, you have to physically go to locations to find the Pokemon to capture. The game might tell you there’s some to capture in a park nearby, or near a church and so forth. 

The first thing you should always do, is only download the game from the official Apple App Store or Google Play. In case if you’re unaware, downloading from an unauthorized website or other unofficial places is very risky. Bad guys like hackers will create fake apps and games for unsuspecting people to download, which will put a virus on your phone/tablet/whatever. Always use the official stores of your phone maker, unless if you’re okay with letting people have access to your emails/texts/calls. 

Secondly, be aware of your surroundings when playing. There have already been reports of car accidents and people getting hit by cars while playing. The game was designed so you wouldn’t need to be glued to the screen. You look for where a Pokemon is nearby, turn your screen off and start walking the general direction. When you are near, your phone will buzz and alert you that you are close, at which point you are to then look around with your phone. This isn’t a game that require your unadulterated attention. Playing it while driving is not only reckless, but dangerous to you and other people. Be safe and know that no game is worth risking the lives of others. The developers made the game so that the only time you needed to stare at your phone is when you are actually capturing a Pokemon. 

Thirdly, if you are playing Pokemon Go, people can track other “trainers”, which is what the players are called. If you have kids playing, they need to be aware that they are not tricked in to going somewhere dangerous. The game has only been out for two weeks or so but this has happened. As the popularity increases, expect more stories of people running in to trouble. Be aware and alert.

Fourth and final, Pokemon Go requires you to log in with a Google account or create an account. If you use your Google account, then you are allowing the game access to a whole slew of things, such as: reading your emails, sending emails as you, accessing your private photos and much, much more. If you must use your Google account instead of creating one, then think about making what’s called a “throwaway account”. This is a term for an account that you use for nothing else then for one thing only. No one knows this email, no one sends you email to it. 

Well, this sounds like a lot to digest and may have put you off of playing, but don’t let it! The game helps bring friends and community together through exploration and exercise. Many things that are fun and enjoyable can be scary and unsafe if you are unaware of what’s happening. Well, now you know how to be safe and secure, so get out there and catch some Pokemon!