keeping your child safe online with Pokémon Go
29th July 2016
If you don’t know what a Zubat or a Jigglypuff is by now, you most likely haven’t been inhabiting planet earth for the past three weeks. Inspired by popular media franchise ‘Pokémon’ (originally created back in 1995), this year’s global summer craze, Pokémon Go, is the latest gaming app to capture the world’s imagination. Described by its developers, Niantic, as a ‘free-to-play location-based augmented reality (AR) game’, we’ve collated some key information summarised below if you’re worried about the app and keeping your child safe online.
what is Pokémon Go?
Using geo location and smartphone cameras, the app allows users to collect, trade and battle fictional creatures, known as ‘Pokémon’. The game turns your local corner shop, church, garden centre or other landmark into an opportunity to catch a Starmie, battle with a Weedle, or collect some of those vital Pokéballs.
what are the pros?
While the media has documented many safety concerns since the launch of the app, including child safety fears from the NSPCC, there are also a number of benefits to acknowledge.
exercise and health
The very nature of augmented reality, blending the real world with the virtual world, helps users to reconnect with the outdoors. By encouraging young people to catch Pokémon and collect a range of useful items, including Pokéballs and Poké eggs from so-called ‘Pokéstops’, the game also incites users to explore their environment beyond the computer chair and rack up their step count. Hatching Poké eggs also requires users to walk anywhere from 2km to 10km!
Many parents of children with special educational needs, including autism, have reported myriad benefits of Pokémon Go. Inspiring young people with autism to explore the outside world and interact with nature, including different textures, develops their understanding and stimulates their senses. Parents have also expressed how the game has enabled autistic children or those with mental health issues, such as anxiety, to communicate and interact with other children in positive ways.
what are the risks?
physical injury or danger
Exploring the real world while distracted by graphics on a phone screen can make users less aware of nearby lampposts and ditches or even approaching vehicles. Several Pokemon Go-related injuries are already circulating the internet, so it’s important that young people remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Just this week, Network Rail contacted Nintendo and app developers over safety concerns relating to reports of Pokémon Go gamers either walking live tracks or playing close to Network Rail infrastructure, warning that the locations of certain PokeStops and PokeGyms are too close to the working railway. So it’s not just keeping your child safe online that parents need to be concerned about, but also the real-world dangers that can occur.
As highlighted by the NSPCC, the game is designed to bring people – even strangers – together. In a face-to-face environment, this can present a host of potential dangers and one of the core reasons you may be worried about keeping your child safe online. Predators may exploit the game to lure young people to unsafe places or situations, so we urge parents, guardians and educators to discuss the potential risks with young people.
While one of the core benefits of the game is that it’s free-to-play, as with most apps, there are often other associated costs. If your child’s smartphone plan doesn’t feature unlimited data, they will need to be aware of the amount of data they are using by playing Pokémon Go or upgrade their plan. Players are also able to make in-app purchases, so young people are at risk of spending money without realising.
worried about keeping your child stay safe online?
If you’re a parent, guardian or educator concerned about keeping your child safe online when playing Pokemon Go, checkout the handy resources below.
The NSPCC has created these top tips for keeping your child safe online when playing Pokémon Go.
Another handy resource has been put together by the UK Safer Internet Centre, which explains more about the risks and how to avoid them.
how to block Pokémon Go using Education Pro
Our technical support team has received a large number of enquiries from customers asking how to block the Pokemon Go app on their network. If you’re an Education Pro customer concerned about the impact of Pokémon Go in your school, you can easily block the app URL by applying it to a network filter – it takes just 30 seconds.