The new Pokémon Go game can be downloaded directly to smartphones and encourages travel between the real world and the virtual world using real locations.
Players receive messages telling them where to go and ‘find’ the virtual creatures and are encouraged to search far and wide in the real world including cities and towns around where they live.
But there are there are safeguarding concerns that the game could present dangers to younger children and other vulnerable people as there are ways for users to ‘lure’ other users to certain areas.
There has been an increasing number of accidents reported anecdotally which have happened while children have been looking for Pokémon.
Paula Mead, independent chairman of Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB), said: “We are encouraging children and young people who may wish to enjoy this game to avoid going anywhere alone as they may be placing themselves in a vulnerable situation.
“Parents and families are advised to accompany their children when they are looking for Pokémon to ensure they are safe and prevents accidents happening.”
Paul Hedley, Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, added: “It’s great that Pokémon Go is encouraging people to get out and about in the county, but there is an increasing number of people risking their safety on roads, near water and in potentially dangerous locations to find the virtual characters.
“We will undoubtedly see a higher number of people playing the game with the start of the summer holidays, but we really must urge residents to pay attention to their surroundings, avoid dangerous locations and act responsibly to avoid accidents.”
The NSPCC has released a guide for parents to keep children safer while playing on the app, which includes the following advice:
Meeting people players don’t know face-to-face – The game is designed to bring people together. Usually strangers. So you never know who your children might meet. Don’t let children go unaccompanied.
There’s a physical risk – It’s easy to forget to look where you’re going with this game, but players need to be careful of where they end up. There are already stories of people being lured to places that aren’t safe for children.
It can cost a lot of money – There are in-app purchases and other incentives which can cost up to £79.99 (14,500 Pokécoins). Make sure the apps is set up without payment options.
Access to personal data – Pokémon Go asks for personal information like your child’s birth date and email address, which they’re asked to enter or receive through social-media accounts. Parents have the right to contact the creators to stop them from using their personal information.
The guidance can be found at https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/pokemon-go-parents-guide/