Thursday night I laughed as I watched my grown son crawl on the floor and roam through my house with his eyes glued to his iPhone. He was in search of Pokémon but apparently they weren’t hanging out at our house so he headed to Pink Berry Frozen Yogurt where he had more success. Physical activity is not usually a component of a game app so I cautiously list exercise as one of the pros pertaining to this particular app. Another benefit is the discovery of interesting and fun landmarks because my son reported back on some surprising Pokémon hangouts in our neighborhood that we didn’t know existed. But, as he walked down real streets in search of virtual characters, he walked down memory lane reminiscing about his childhood Pokémon games and there was no doubting the downside to this app that did not coexist with his childhood game.
Pokémon Go is a game for Android and IOS devices that blends a virtual world with the real environment in what’s known as “augmented reality.” Players battle, capture and train virtual Pokémon who seem to appear in actual surroundings. By July 11th, it was estimated that the game was downloaded over 7.5 million times and that Nintendo’s share prices increased nicely as a result of the game. These facts remain to be proven however, the potential dangers associated with the app are being widely discussed online, in person and on television.
- As players focus on device screens instead of paying attention to what’s going on around them, the chance of physical harm increases:
- The first car accident report was a hoax, but it could easily become a reality with the game’s potential to distract drivers.
- In general, it’s a bad idea to walk around looking down at a device. (Unless you are lucky enough to trip at the exact moment 2 handsome firemen are jogging by and one of them helps you like they helped me when I tripped as I was recently sending a text and walking on the street.) Tripping or bumping into things or people is bad enough, but the danger of being badly injured from a vehicle is very real.
- Like many other apps, this app takes access to personal data in the form of location, contacts, camera, media, network connections and more. Some of this access is necessary to play the game but some of the information is not and this information can be potentially abused.
- Users that log in via Google have unknowingly been granting the app access to information in their Google accounts. (for example, email, documents and much more). A fix for this is underway, but what about the people who already allowed this open access into their real lives?
- Armed robbery suspects set up Pokéstops to lure players into a trap. Some young men were arrested and a few were charged with felonies. The funny image below has been circulating around but it highlights the very real danger of younger kids being lured towards criminals.
- Kids under 13 years old are not supposed to be using apps that collect data from them without parental permission. I’d love to know how kids under 13 years old will be prevented from playing this enticing game! Stranger danger, distraction danger, being tracked danger and location data danger come instantly to my mind.
- Some Pokémon hangouts connect to private homes and a story has been circulating about a particular home owner whose home was a Pokémon training gym. Aside from the obvious privacy invasion, this could prove quite inconvenient for some people as players block driveways and loiter around private properties. On the flip side, this highlights potential commercial value. It won’t be long before businesses get in on the action to attract clients to their locations.
- The app was not released all over the world at once and there have been stories circulating about counterfeit games being downloaded which install malware on devices. Players should only download legitimate versions of the product because where cyber activity exists, cyber crime will follow.
- A minor negative side effect is that the game drains device battery power which means phones may not have enough juice for other important phone use.
It’s been interesting and entertaining watching this rapidly growing phenomenon since the moment I found myself laughing at my son crawling on the ground in search of Pokémon. But the highlight for me was yesterday’s call from my son telling me that he’d uninstalled the game from his iPhone after deciding the cons outweighed the pros for him. I must have done something right as a parent!
Until next time,… Stay Cyber Safe!