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Pokemon Go: What it is and how it can be fun for the whole family

The digital scavenger hunt is the latest craze that's taking the internet by storm. But, what is it exactly? Should parents be worried about it?

The sight of kids glued to their phones is no longer unusual. But now, instead of social media taking up all the space on their phones, they're getting a hooked on a new craze.

Pokemon Go, the digital scavenger hunt game that's taking the internet by storm, brings together the best of 90s nostalgia with the latest GPS technology. The main objective? Gotta catch 'em all, of course!

As with all of the latest trends, it's natural for parents to become skeptical about it at first. But, information is power. And, it's not hard to believe why many parents are getting hooked on hunting for Pokemon.

How do you play Pokemon Go?

Once you download the app, you will be directed to quick tutorial. After that, the app's map will pop out and, with the help of GPS mapping and your phone's camera, it navigates you from your present location until you stumble upon a "creature".

Pokemon may be imaginary cartoon characters but in the revolutionary app, the adorable and elusive creatures exist all around us.

In the game, you become the "trainer" who must travel to find and capture Pokemon creatures. Each creature you successfully capture gets added to your Pokedex collection.

pokemongo screen screengrab collage: Youtube

Why is it so addictive?

A huge part of why people enjoy it so much is because it melds the world of Pokemon with reality: it shows your actual location while characters can pop out at any moment. It gets you to walk toward the creatures in order to get close enough to capture them.

Aside from the characters, you can also find other symbols on the map such as Pokestops and Gyms, which are important universal landmarks shared by all players of the game because they grant you experience points and virtual candy to level up your growing Pokedex.

Next page: Does it count as exercise? Is it safe?

Does playing Pokemon Go count as exercise?

Well, yes. Because once you begin playing it, you really have to move! Many social media netizens have even shared how playing it has made them more active.

In fact, there are even fitness classes focused on using the app as its main method of excercise. Men's health even wrote an article about how Pokemon Go is secretly a the world's biggest fitness phenomenon.

“You have to walk around to get the full benefits of the game,” Trent, a 25-year-old engineer from New Jersey told the fitness site. “Eggs won't hatch unless you walk 2km, 5km, even 10km.”

cellphone distracted feat photo: Pixabay

How safe is it for kids to play?

The creators of the game recommend that players be nine years old or older. Since the game is reliant on going outdoors, often leading to unfamiliar places, it's natural for parents to worry that it would lead their kids to unsafe areas--add to that the distraction of playing the app keeps them from being 100% alert and aware of their surroundings.

While other players can't see their fellow pokemon hunters while in the game, players have found it easy to determine who's playing the game within the vicinity based on how they're gesturing with their phones.

It's important to think "safety first," urges Clayton Ostler, Chief Product Officer at Net Nanny, an app focused on helping parents keep kids safe on their mobile phones and online.

"You can't really blame the app for common sense dangers like stepping out into traffic or bumping into things," he told TODAY. "The augmented reality on the map is general; it doesn't show all the dangers around you."

So, how can parents avoid the dangers of the app? It's important not to allow your kids to wander alone where they normally wouldn't. And, teach them the importance of being aware of their surroundings at all times. This latest craze can be a fun family bonding experience, if we remind kids to know their limits.

READ: The many scary dangers of playing Pokemon Go!

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