Pokemon Go has taken over the public’s attention worldwide. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing gamers hard at work capturing Pokemon. The game can be quite addictive as evidenced by it’s meteoric rise. Pokemon Go is the fastest growing mobile app in history with over 30 million downloads in the first two weeks. It’s great to see kids and adults everywhere getting outside and living a more active lifestyle in search of new Pokemon. The key is keeping students safe both on and off campus.
Educate students on the safety and privacy risks
The first step in educating students on the risks of playing Pokemon Go is to understand the game has a lot of positive features and people love it. Students won’t want to feel like you’re trying to stop or deter them from playing on campus. Instead try to encourage them to consider the risks as they would for any other outdoor activity. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the game and put down your defenses. That’s dangerous both to young students and those on college campuses around the world.
An Ole Miss student shared the story of her experience playing Pokemon after dark one night. She was approached by a man asking strange questions. He proceeded to follow her in his car. It was enough to make her quit playing Pokemon Go for awhile. The situation could have been much worse. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a game and leave your defenses down. This is especially true for young players. Just as your child wouldn’t trust a stranger offering candy, they need to be just as wary of someone offering help in finding Pokemon or asking for assistance.
Remind students that it’s important to take the same precautions they would in an empty parking lot after dark. Just because someone else appears to be playing Pokemon Go or knows something about the game doesn’t mean they’re a friend. The game uses GPS which potentially makes it easier for criminals to find unsuspecting victims.
Encourage players to focus on populated areas. This will help keep them safe and give them a better chance of finding Pokemon. The game has PokeStops which are significant places of interest. They are typically well known landmarks that are also open to the public. Sticking to these areas will help students avoid dangerous situations. It will lower the risk and give player’s the chance to play in groups.
Set campus boundaries to help protect students
It may seem like common sense to set boundaries but a lot of school campuses are surrounded by busy roads and other dangerous areas. You may even have rough terrain on property. It’s important to set physical boundaries so that students understand where to stop when exploring for Pokemon. It’s all too easy to think that you can just run across the road or take your eye off the terrain ahead to collect pocket monsters. This is perhaps the most dangerous action students can take when focused on their phone.
Dangerous boundaries aren’t confined to streets. It’s important to review your campus and the areas around it for safety. Perhaps you have places that aren’t appropriate for students to explore. This could include rough terrain, areas around power facilities, locked buildings, and more. Pokemon can show up in any GPS location so it’s important to set boundaries so that students know what’s off limits. Simply doing the assessment will help you determine which areas of campus are unsafe for Pokemon Go players. I would suggest posting signs. It may seem like overkill to some but the extra alerts are worth the effort as students and faculty alike get acquainted with the risks of augmented reality games like Pokemon Go.
Experience the game for yourself
The best way to understand the safety and privacy risks of Pokemon Go is to actually play the game. You may want to do some research online first. Those new to Pokemon will want to learn some of the terms and nuances of the game. Here’s a beginner’s guide to get you started. From there I encourage you to go out and experience the augmented reality game. Pokemon Go is the first of many such games that could very well change our lives. It’s already pulling millions of people off the couch and getting players lots of exercise finding pocket monsters.
If you have kids it’s very likely that you’ve already seen Pokemon Go in action. If not go ahead and download the app. I suggest you set up a separate Google account to play Pokemon Go. This will help alleviate some of the privacy risks. You will also want to encourage students not to use their real names when setting up Google and Pokemon accounts to further protect their privacy. From there you should get outside and join the campus party in search or rare Pokemon. You may be surprised by just how much fun the game is to play.