Five Stranger-Danger Tips for Pokémon GO

Sep 17, 2016

There has been no shortage of news articles about the Pokémon GO phenomenon, the good, the bad and the ugly (some of those critters are pretty scary-looking!). On a positive note, Pokémon GO is encouraging children, and even families, to get outside and explore -- it’s fun to get exercise when you’re playing a game, right? While the game’s reality is augmented, it doesn’t stop real life dangers from occurring while your kids are out playing.

Always be aware

I think about my own son, so engrossed in a game on his iPad that he doesn’t hear me call him for dinner, and I can only imagine how dangerous it would be to let him play Pokémon GO on his own. People are already so engrossed in their smartphones that they unknowingly step out into traffic, so it’s extremely important for you to continually remind your child to be aware of his surroundings while he’s playing Pokémon GO.

I’m not an alarmist, but stepping out into traffic is only one of the real dangers our kids face when playing Pokémon GO. If your child isn’t paying attention to his surroundings, he can easily be followed by someone with less than honorable intentions.

Head in the opposite direction

Because your child is aware of her surroundings, she’ll notice that someone seems to be following her. Or, she’s at a Pokéstop with strangers coming and going to collect Pokéballs to catch those elusive critters. Let your child know that she should head in the opposite direction (preferably run), should she encounter someone who makes her feel uncomfortable.

If you’re not already familiar with the game, players can set a “lure” to draw more Pokémon to a designated area. Many small businesses have capitalized on this to drive traffic to their shops, but it’s very possible that a predator could use this “lure” to draw unsuspecting children (or adults) to a remote area.

Set boundaries

As you do with the Internet, establish expectations and set boundaries for your child. With Pokémon GO you should set physical boundaries; establish a perimeter where your child can go out in search of Pokémon or battles. Advise your child to stay away from secluded areas -- there are plenty of Pokémon to catch everywhere -- and playing only in public and well-lighted areas.

Establish a code word

Having a code word is especially important, should your child find herself in a dangerous situation. Whether it be when with friends, or out playing Pokémon, set a code word with your child when you’re going over the rules of engagement. This way your child can let you know that they’re in danger, without alerting the person or people they’re with. Choose a word or phrase that is common enough to remember, but not to generic.

Find an adult

Instruct your child to find a police officer if they find themselves in a dangerous situation, or if heading in the opposite direction of a stranger doesn’t work. If there is not a police officer around, particularly in suburban areas, then have your child find an adult.

There are dangers associated with almost everything we do these days, with potential threats now in real and virtual life. Arm your children with information, have a plan, and most of all, allow them to have safe fun with Pokémon GO!