Pokémon Go: the app everyone around the world is talking about, the game everyone is playing and the app that could potentially make children victims of crimes like cyber exploitation.
The popularity of Pokémon Go skyrocketed in just a few short weeks in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the rest of the GCC. Millions of children and young adults use it without staying conscious of the dangers they may face.
That is why it is essential for parents to stay updated with Pokémon Go, how often children use it on their phones and how adults – specifically online predators – can use it to exploit them.
What Is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is a free smartphone app that uses combines the real world with the virtual world. Using iPhone or Android device, this application allows kids to search for characters called Pokémon based on your real-world location; think of it like a treasure hunt that relies on the Internet. Once you find these characters, you can snatch them by snapping a screenshot of them.
But wait. There’s more!
Once you collect a Pokémon character, you now have the ability to train them and battle against other people playing on the same Pokémon app.
For more on how to play the game, click here.
But if you read anything from this article, it is this:
Pokémon Go requires your child to go outside in order to play it. You are always on the move, because the characters never stop moving.
…And that’s when it gets dangerous.
Why Pokémon Go Is Dangerous for Your Child
What is unique about Pokémon is what also makes it dangerous compared to other apps and online games: the ability to explore unknown locations in the real world. Without adult supervision, this puts young people at risk for encountering strangers… strangers who could also say that they’re playing the game.
Someone on YouTube did a social experiment on this, and the results he found are shocking!
Take a look and see just how simple it is for a stranger to start a conversation with your child based on a shared interest like playing Pokémon Go. More importantly, how easy was it for him to convince these kids to follow him wherever he wanted them to go?
(We have seen this is different settings, as well. Be sure to check out the videos in this article; you can also discuss it with your child’s teachers.)
Online Predators: “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”
As parents, it is your responsibility to let your child know that there are dishonest people out there who are looking to manipulate people on Pokémon Go. If they don’t believe you, they might believe what the police may say.
According to Detective Superintendent Joanne Rawlinson, there have already been incidents in the United States where young people are being targeted through the mobile app.
Here is her advice:
I ask parents to speak to their children about the sites they visit online, who they talk to and most importantly what to do if they see inappropriate content or are approached by someone that worries them. Advise your child to tell someone they trust and stress they won’t be in trouble. Explain to your child that friends are people that they know in ‘real life’ not someone they don’t know online.
Parents, make sure you know what your child is doing online and encourage them to talk about any people that approach them online. Everyone needs to keep security high and make sure the friends you are talking to online are really your friends.
If you or your child suspect that there is someone grooming your child using the Pokémon Go app, contact your local police authority immediately.
Pokémon Go can be a very fun app to play for smartphone users, and it does help kids stay more active and create a stronger connection between the real world and virtual world. However, it is important for parents to note the dangers of Pokémon Go and online gaming in general. Learn more what your children are playing and supervise them when needed.
Remember to do your own research about it, and remember the effects it could have on your child… especially if this is all they see.
Other Useful Pokémon Go Resources for Parents:
- Pokemon.com is the official website for Pokémon, and they have a Parents Guide.
- GameSpot offers guides, tips & tricks, reviews and Pokémon news from around the world.
- Internet Matters has a great webpage on how to keep your children safe when they use Pokémon Go.
- The Verge provides context on Pokemon’s impact over the last 20 years (only available in English).
- ParentInfo has some safety tips and how to use Pokémon Go wisely.