Thursday, 21 July 2016 12:25

ACMA issues warning on Pokémon risks for mobile phone users


Pokémon Go is a huge craze sweeping the world attracting millions of players but here in Australia the mobile gaming phenomenon has also attracted the interest of the telecommunications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, with a warning on the risks for Pokémon-playing mobile phone users.

The ACMA — which partners with the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner has warned Pokémon players about some of the risks, particularly for younger users, including the risk from fake versions of the game and unexpected credit card charges for data use with the app using smartphone Internet connections, GPS and camera.

As the ACMA observes, within two days of its release this month, the game was installed on 5.16% of all Android devices across the US and downloaded at least 15 million times worldwide on Apple and Android smartphones.

The ACMA also points to recent media coverage highlighting risks including:

•    Locations that could be unsuitable for young players and also adults;

•    Child players being too young to play the game unsupervised;

•    The real risk of interacting with others who are not suitable for the child; and

•    Safety risks of walking while looking at a phone while playing.

“Remember – no Pokémon is worth risking your safety and those around you,” the ACMA says, recommending that players:

•    Download the app from an official store — Apple’s App Store for iPhones or the Google Play Store for Android — so you don’t get a potentially dangerous fake version (malware) of Pokémon Go.

•    Watch out for, or restrict, in-app purchases of PokéCoins to avoid any unexpected credit card charges. The current cost of PokéCoins ranges from $1.49 for 100 to $159.99 for 14,500.

As the ACMA observes, arrangements for in-app purchases vary across app and mobile providers and there are a few ways you can be charged.

“The most common is through the Apple App Store and Google Play, where the purchases are charged to the credit card or other payment arrangement linked to your account. You can disable in-app purchases made this way by changing the settings on your smartphone – find out how for iPhones and Androids.

The ACMA also cautions game players to:

•    Keep an eye out for your spend management alerts  (also known as usage notifications) and track your data usage to avoid bill shock. Using the app is estimated to consume between 5 MB to 10MB per hour.

•    Check your security settings and make sure you are comfortable with any access that the game has to other apps and content on your phone.

•    Keep an eye on your battery level – using the GPS, camera and internet connection can suck your battery life. Read these tips on how to save battery life  while playing Pokémon Go.

•    Download and install any updates this will fix any bugs and update software.

And, the ACMA has a few tips for parents with kids playing Pokémon:

1.    Talk to your kids about the games they’re playing and understand what’s involved. Playing it with your kids is fun, and will give you a better understanding about what’s involved and any risks.

2.    Set boundaries based on your child’s age and family values. Work out how you want to approach the game, and make sure your child has clear guidelines they understand.

3.    Remind your kids to pay attention to safety while playing – if they are walking with a phone at any time, they need to be aware of their surroundings. Look up, look around and always walk safely

Parents can also find valuable information on the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner’s website or can also access the ACMA’s helpful advice about staying safe online on its website.     

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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