Pokémon GO

App review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Pokémon GO App Poster Image
Exciting, active game marred by privacy and safety issues.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 44 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

Easy to pick up, begin, but poorly explained rules, controls mean either prolonged frustration or internet searches.

Violence

Point is to train different creatures to fight one another, but no blood, overt violence.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

You can play without spending money, but players who make in-app purchases to buy PokéCoins, Poké Balls, upgrades have definite advantages. Partnerships with retailers like Starbucks, Sprint drive users to stores.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pokémon GO is an insanely popular augmented reality game (based on the Pokémon franchise of video games, card games, and other media). Its broad appeal and use of internet connection with GPS tracking and movement in the real world means it contains various safety and security issues. Privacy concerns are being discovered and addressed by the developer, so it's best to consistently update to the current version and check your settings. Aside from online risks, playing involves risk of physical injury due to distraction, being directed to unsafe places or onto private property. Players' locations are tracked and stored, and players' avatars, trainer names, and in-game stats are shared with other players during gym battles or after placing lure modules. The game drains phone batteries quickly, and a wristband accessory -- the Pokémon GO Plus, available separately for $35 -- alerts players to nearby pocket monsters. Partnerships with various brands drive users to stores and encourage purchases. The privacy policy indicates that user information -- including name, email, age, and location -- is collected; parents of children under 13 must confirm their child's account or contact the Pokémon Company International to refuse the company access to this information (hence our age rating). The privacy policy was updated November 1, 2017, and a disclaimer at the start indicates it could change further at any time.

User Reviews

Parent of a 7 year old Written bydejahh July 15, 2016

This game is like an illicit drug to small children...very addictive

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed my 7 year old son with ADHD and behavior issues up to play Pokemon Go on my phone. He struggles enoug... Continue reading
Adult Written bymychza July 15, 2016

Has a few glitches, but really fun.

I think if you have privacy concerns you may want to download the app to your own phone and have the account. They are constantly upgrading to make it better s... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 12, 2016

Only for city people

I live In a small town in Michigan and it wants me to go to Detroit
Kid, 12 years old August 20, 2016

Pokemon Go: Not as good as other apps, but fine

Pokemon Go is an alright app, but not as good as many others. It basically involves going in the real world and catching Pokemon. Fun, right? Wrong! While it wa... Continue reading

What's it about?

The Pokémon franchise has always been about two things: collecting fanciful creatures and making them fight each other. POKÉMON GO builds on this, using augmented reality to bring these challenges into the real world. Players take on the role of a young Pokémon trainer and collect various Pokémon (more than 370 as of April 2018) in real locations by walking, biking, driving, and so on. GPS tracking follows you around a map that simulates real-world locations in real time (so long as your internet connection is strong enough), where you encounter map icons that show where you can catch wild Pokémon, gather resources, and visit training gyms. The more ground you cover, the bigger your collection and the more energy you have. Once you reach a high enough level, you can join a team and pit your Pokémon against those of rival trainers. A spring 2018 update added the concept of Field Research, which hosts monthly theme changes with new content. It also lets players obtain random quests from PokeStops and complete them for special rewards. Completing one Field Research per day for seven days grants players a Research Breakthrough, plus a greater reward and a possible encounter with a Legendary Pokémon. Also new are story-based quest lines called Special Research Requests which have players completing tasks for Professor Willow.

Is it any good?

While this wildly popular mobile app has cooled somewhat since its launch in 2016, its latest updates bring more functionality and fun. Comments about flawed execution, privacy, and safety still stand; for instance, for the first few days of the current update, it was impossible to log in to the game. Improvements have been made as far as helping new players understand the new features, but they could still be better. New features since last year's release include more than 200 new Pokémon, a badge system, a few new items, Raiding (taking on Pokémon bosses with the help of a larger group) and some community-requested Raid tweaks. The most recent update includes the Field Research quest system and story-based Special Research Requests. Still, the game lacks the player-versus-player battles fans have been clamoring for. Raids still suffer from preset times with long no-Raid intervals in between which means players without loads of free time will never experience them. Also, though Raids have been made more accessible, the new invite-only EX Raids are really only accessible to committed high-level players.

Execution and privacy/safety remain issues; The first week of the update, logging into the game was difficult if not impossible, and gameplay can still be interrupted by bugs and internet server/connection issues. Players in rural areas report problems having access to enough content, and risks remain for kids regarding strangers, trespassing on private property, and online security. Still, there's something great how the game brings people together. People playing Pokémon GO approach each other smiling to talk about their collections, strategies, and levels. Two years post-release, this positive reception keeps players willing to overlook the game's imperfections, and to be fair, the game keeps getting better. Simple as it is, ("collect three of this, perform three Great Throws, etc.) the new Field Research system gives players some much-needed purpose in between Gym battles and Raids, and Special Research Requests give them some much-needed story context. The game continues to be a work in progress with serious technical issues and because of that, parents should weigh the costs and benefits of it, determine whether it's right for their family, and set limits before kids start to play.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the privacy and safety implications of a game like Pokémon GO. Discuss ways to play securely together: keeping the app updated, setting up a separate email account just for gaming, using a made-up display name, turning off location tracking when you're not playing, and avoiding signing in through social media accounts. 

  • Talk about physical safety. While it's great to be active, it's not safe to walk, ride, or drive while looking at your phone. Set neighborhood boundaries and rules about keeping safe when outside. Make it clear to kids that it's never OK to enter private property, that they should avoid unsafe or uncomfortable situations with other players, and they they should avoid being alone by playing with an adult or with friends.

  • Talk about finding balance between screentime and other activities. Though Pokémon GO is more active than some games, it's still an on-screen experience. How can you find a stopping point?

  • Why do app/game companies want to collect user data? What do you think they do with it?

  • Why do you think this particular game is so popular? What sets it apart from other games, and why does it appeal to such a wide range of players? What makes it so fun, and how can the whole family play together safely? 

App details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love anime and the outdoors

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate