Alan Earl, Harm Reduction Officer, from UK
Safer Internet Centre partners, the South West Grid for Learning,
explains a bit more about the app, the risks and what parents can
do to avoid them.
What is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is an app enabling users to create a character (any
name) and partake in a mobile version of the Pokemon game made
popular through Nintendo.
Once created the app uses Geo Location enabled through the phone
to identify the users location. A map is then provided which shows
nearby Pokemon. The basic premise of the game is to walk or ride
towards the Pokemon in order to capture it and increase your game
status. Capture is achieved by throwing a virtual ball on screen at
the character, some of which are harder to catch than others.
The risks and what you can do to avoid them
Although new and still developing in the UK the media as always
is keen to point out the darker issues and incidents when
describing news stories.
The game itself is hugely entertaining and immersive and
provides the opportunity for parents to engage with their children
outside the home with technology. Herein lies the option to
encourage children out of their bedroom into the real world for
some exercise whilst still being able to use gaming technology.
Some of the early issues identified are likely to be around
environment awareness. It is very easy to become totally absorbed
in capturing that elusive Pokemon but not being aware of the
lamppost you are about to walk into or the ditch you have veered
towards. Already there are badge of pride postings on social media
of 'Go' players who have injured themselves in this and similar
ways. Wise maybe to talk to your children about heads up regularly
Stanger danger messages are still
applicable and teaching children not to be frightened but wary of
strangers can be difficult in this setting. The context of meeting
someone at a Gym may give a child a feeling of safety within the
Pokemon community that does not exist. Great to have a conversation
around this and how care needs to be taken wherever you are.
Especially in view of the fact that users can purchase Lure
Modules these enable users to attract more Pokemon characters
to their set location (acts like incense to the characters)
therefore encouraging more people to the venue. Keep those messages
Finally, people looking at screens in public areas like shopping
centres is not something new and is a regular sight. Small groups
of children running around quiet cul-de-sacs phone in hand shouting
about Squirtles, Vulpix and Jigglypuffs may cause some
consternation and concern from different quarters. Maybe we need to
discuss this with our children and explain how being sensitive to
their surrounding can help them avoid some problems.
As with all new technology there will be a period of re
adjustment and understanding. Rather than allowing the media to
show us horror stories about the new technology. Now is the time to
look at it ourselves and then have open conversations with our
children. As with everything a set of rules and honest conversation
will avoid many of the issues and allow your children to enjoy what
is an engaging and fun game whilst avoiding some of the pitfalls.
In this case many of the rules you already teach are hugely
applicable here. Taking care around strangers whether Pokemon
players or not. Considering and being aware of the dangers of your
physical locality and considering the concerns of others whilst
engaged in playing the game will be a start on dealing with the
fallout from Pokemon Go. As the game develops and more is known I
am sure the makers and Online safety experts everywhere will be
able to point to coping mechanisms if necessary.