What Educators and Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go is taking over the world as ‘trainers’ of multiple generations hunt for Pokémon at landmarks and favorite spots in your hometown.
Released last week on iOS and Android, players in a virtual reality world hunt for Pokémon, seek out items at Pokéstops and battle each other at Gyms. Pokémon Go pulls data from Google Maps and player-submitted photos of local landmarks to place Pokémon and items at various locations, encouraging players to visit those places to pick up items and battle.
The Pokémon franchise is 20 years old, so the game attracts players of all ages. Players exploring the virtual world could be 8 or 28, and it’s not unusual to see both young and old at the same Pokéstop.
Pokémon Go is not playable without visiting the locations in the game, which means players must visit a physical location known to the public. In certain situations, this can be dangerous. Players could wander into high-traffic areas without being aware of their surroundings, as well as visit places where predators could be waiting.
- The game encourages exercise, as you must literally walk/run to catch Pokémon.
- Players learn about their local landmarks and visit locations like firehouses, churches and community centers.
- Unlike most mobile games, Pokémon Go can bring friends to a gathering place at Pokéstops or Gyms.
- The game doesn’t have a built-in messaging system or any way to interact with strangers inside the app itself.
- No personal information is displayed aside from a username.
- If a student plays with adult supervision, the chances of him or her encountering a stranger or dangerous situation are extremely low.
- To participate, players must visit certain locations that are visible to every player.
- If unsupervised, young players could end up at locations with much older players, or anyone else aware of the game’s locations.
- In high-traffic areas, walking while paying attention to only the virtual reality on the phone screen could result in players walking into traffic or other dangerous places.
- Although the location of a player isn’t shared, by paying close attention to trainers at Gyms, a predator could recognize a player’s general location.
- Reports from players and local news have described players in the game being confronted by predators and muggers.
Tips for educators and parents
- Familiarizing yourself with Pokémon Go is relatively simple, so a few minutes of research should be helpful.
- There are no direct interactions between players in the game that adults must monitor, so the best way to ensure students are safe while playing is to be simply aware of their location.
- Unlike most apps, the supervision of this game can be accomplished by physically keeping track of the student, rather than his or her interaction on a mobile device.
- If your school has Pokéstops on campus, students will want to visit the area frequently, so it might be useful to become aware of the nearest Pokéstops.
Pokémon Go is an excellent game for players of all ages. The downside of going out into the community is that people can be waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting victims unaware of their surroundings. As in any situation, young players should never visit locations without an adult present, and players should be encouraged to travel in pairs.
Gaggle’s Safety Representatives continue to discover websites and apps that pose potential risks to students. Here’s a popular and ever-growing list of “Top Social Networks & Apps Your Kids Use.”
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