Better Business Bureau urges caution with Pokémon Go craze

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The Phoenix Zoo is embracing the Pokemon Go craze and says it is home to more than 30.
The Phoenix Zoo is embracing the Pokemon Go craze, bragging it is home to more than 30 “PokeStops.” The zoo is opening an hour early (at 6 a.m.) July 17-23 specifically because of gamers. This picture shows the Pokemon “Abra” character resting at the zoo’s mandrill habitat. Courtesy of the Phoenix Zoo.

There’s no question it’s hot right now. Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game played on a smartphone via its global-positioning system, has reportedly been downloaded more than 7.5 million times since the game debuted earlier this month.

On one hand, the mobile app has been lauded for getting gamers “off the couch” and outside to capture Pokémon Go’s virtual creatures. Players try to catch the on-screen Pokémon creatures as they move around their neighborhoods, cities and towns.

But before you or your kids get started, the Better Business Bureau of Arizona has a few words of caution. The BBB is warning there are some nuances parents should know before allowing their young kids free rein.

Hidden costs

According to the BBB, while it’s possible to play the game cost-free by winning the in-game currency, you can also purchase so-called PokéCoins through an in-app purchase. The longer you play, the more spending money you need.

The BBB also warns parents who have limited data plans that the app requires constant GPS access, and it uses a lot of data. Playing for hours every day might mean you’ll wind up with a hefty mobile-phone bill at the end of the month.

Privacy concerns

Another concern has to do with privacy. To play, users must allow the app to access phone GPS and camera devices. The Android version of the game only accesses limited data, but the iOS version for iPhone can access all Google data. Niantic, the game’s maker, says so far no personal information has been accessed, and it is issuing a bug fix to the problem.

The BBB is also asking people downloading the game to make sure they do it through official app stores to avoid downloading malware.

Physical safety

Safety while playing the game is another thing to consider, especially with young children. Parents should know where their kids are when they’re playing the game. The BBB is asking drivers to watch out for young children who might be distracted while playing the game outside.

According to the BBB, a Missouri police department reported gamers were robbed at one secluded “PokéStop.” And because the app quickly drains phone batteries, users should be careful not to get stranded too far from home.

All “PokéStops” are supposed to be on public property, but in at least one instance, an historic private home was included in the stops. In the future, stores may cash in on the game by adding characters to the challenge, which is something parents will need to be aware of.

Pokémon Go appears at Phoenix Zoo, Children’s Museum

Already, local attractions like the Phoenix Zoo are embracing Pokémon Go. The zoo’s website boasts it is home to more than 30 “PokéStops” and is “a fantastic spot for gamers to collect items, experience points and Poké Eggs.”

Specifically because of Pokemon Go gamers, the zoo is opening an hour early to the public — at 6 a.m. — July 17-23 so guests “can enjoy catching, training, and socializing.” The zoo says staff “will set lures to attract Pokémon to specific areas so that guests may catch as many as possible during their visit.” And from 6-10 a.m. on Saturday, July 23, costumed Pokémon mascots will greet zoo visitors.

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix also announced it has 12 Pokémon and counting, including a Hitmonchan. The museum was touting its PokeStops for an August date-night event it hosts.

Related: Keeping kids safe online

 

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