In case you’ve been living in a cave recently, and have managed to avoid being bombarded with social media posts and news stories about Pokémon GO, you can probably stop reading right now. But if you’re one of the untold millions of people around the world who have downloaded this location-based augmented reality mobile game, we’ve got a few tips for you about how to use it safely.
1. Download only from reputable app stores
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are already malware-laden versions of Pokémon GO floating around. And these most definitely will not be the last such stories we hear. So stick with the Apple and Google app stores, and choose only the one with more downloads than just about every other app in the world.
Don’t be tempted to look elsewhere for the file if you encounter slow-downs caused by a large number of downloads. If you’re in doubt, Android users can scan the file with reputable anti-malware software.
2. Do not sign in with Google
Another difficulty caused by too many simultaneous downloads is that people have been unable to sign in directly through the Pokémon site, so the game’s developers added the ability to sign in with your Google account. The problem with this is that in the initial iOS version, this gave the app astounding levels of access to your Google account.
3. Bring a buddy, stay in public places
Stories are already starting to come in about little kids wandering off into the woods and getting lost; people going places they’re not supposed to; people getting mugged, and others stumbling into traffic. Kids should be accompanied by a responsible adult, and adults should bring … well, another responsible adult.
4. Bring an extra battery
Apparently, the Pokémon app is quite the battery-vampire. This, combined with wandering off to places you may not know how to get back from, can put you in a sticky situation. It’s a good idea to bring a spare battery (and probably some snacks, water and money for a cab or bus fare) in case of an emergency.
5. Be sensible
Traveling in numbers doesn’t really ensure you won’t play while driving, cross the street without checking for traffic, or loiter creepily outside of people’s homes. Virtual monsters are not worth life and limb – or getting arrested. So don’t let the excitement of the game lure you into doing something you (or your next of kin) will regret.
It’s tempting to get swept away with new crazes, especially when the activity itself is so effective at giving you those neurochemicals that make you motivated to keep playing. In many ways the game has been a fantastic influence, with benefits such as inspiring people to exercise more and improving their mental health. With a little caution, you can get all the benefits with fewer risks.
Author Lysa Myers, ESET