This section provides a focus on topical issues related to Online Safeguarding and aims to give a useful overview for a variety of audiences. Additional items will be added at regular intervals so be sure to check back for updated information.
A Focus On...Pokémon GO
Released in the UK at the end of July 2016 on both iOS and Android devices, Pokémon GO has become an enormously popular mobile game for our Children and Young People.
For those not familiar, Pokémon GO (also referred to as 'PoGo') is an Augmented Reality (AR), location-based mobile game which involves collecting animated characters (Pokémon) from various locations which can then be used to train or have virtual battles against other Pokémon. Players can also collect items such as eggs from PokéStops which then hatch into Pokémon once the player has walked a certain number of kilometres (Note: Pokémon GO relies heavily on a device’s GPS (Global Positioning System) which can quickly drain the battery). The game uses AR on devices so characters appear to exist in real-world locations (see example screenshot right).
Understandably, its continued popularity amongst young people (and not-as-young-people too) generates a number of common questions: Are there potential risks we need to consider? What is the age requirement? Are there any positive aspects to the game? Where can I find out more? As with the wider Online Safety world, the issues are typically less with the technology itself and more about the behaviours that surround it. With this in mind, it becomes apparent that moving around in public, holding out our expensive devices in front of us, looking for a Dratini or a Pikachu can present a set of concerns we might not normally associate with typical Online Safety risks. However, there are positives for us in this respect - as adults, we will more than likely likely feel far more confident discussing being aware of our surroundings, opportunities for thieves and paying attention to traffic dangers than we would perhaps when trying to understand the in-and-outs of the latest Social Media app’s updated privacy settings.
The original 1990s tagline "Gotta-catch-‘em-all" potentially gives us a clue to another concern we need to consider – one of the aims of the game is to collect all the Pokémon characters (150+) and whilst it can be great fun, it can understandably become quite addictive. As indicated above, Pokémon GO is popular across all ages (Note: Users under the age of 13 must sign up with their parent’s consent) and is free-to-play (Note: Pokémon GO has a variety of in-app purchases) so as with other online safety risks, setting some ground rules and expectations such as time limits is therefore highly advisable and is much easier to agree beforehand if possible. Perhaps one of the much-overlooked positive aspects around Pokémon GO is the potential for collective family outdoor activity – it can often be challenging getting our children to ‘unplug’ and ‘go outdoors’ but Pokémon GO can offer us the opportunity to meet them halfway and with a suitable device, is an activity the family can participate in together.
Occasionally, concerns are raised over the location of PokéStops and Gyms including trespassing on private land or potentially problematic locations. Niantic (the makers of Pokémon GO) provide a custom reporting facility where concerns can be raised to report game problems or request their removal. Where this is an issue, a link is provided below to the support site.