July 21, 2016

Pokémon Go Safety Tips: Catch a Digital Citizenship Learning Opportunity

Elena Ontiveros
A phone holding up a screen showing Pokemon Go game while standing on a beach

When you’re away from your students, do you wonder how they spend their free time? This summer, chances are Pokémon Go fever has caught them all.

An augmented reality game that blends a digital world with the real world, Pokémon Go has players track and capture virtual creatures at various locations. While it’s a great way for kids to get out and see more of their community, the game can also be used to reinforce basic digital citizenship practices.

Here’s how you can talk about Pokémon Go using the framework of Common Sense Education’s eight areas of digital citizenship:

  • Internet Safety
  • While there’s currently no in-game chat capability, there are apps that can be downloaded to give players a way to communicate. Know and trust the people you interact with, whether you talk online or meet face-to-face. You may not know all your team members, so be thoughtful about any personal information you share.
  • Privacy & Security
  • The game asks for access to your Google or Pokémon Trainer Club account, as well as your camera and location. Think about what you really need to share and what you’re agreeing to with the Terms of Service. You can always opt of settings now and turn them on later when you understand how the game actually works.
  • Relationships & Communication
  • Whether you’re claiming, attacking, or defending a Gym, play and speak with fairness. Your fellow Trainers are more than nickname on a screen; they’re people, too—ones you may come across when capturing Pokémon in the real world. Be sure to keep the competition friendly online and off.
  • Cyberbullying & Digital Drama
  • Do you think less of Valor and Instinct because you’re on Mystic? Have you pressured friends to join your team? Is it OK to tease people for not achieving the same level? These are signs of bullying. Make positive connections instead and see how many more Pokémon you can capture if you work together.
  • Digital Footprint & Reputation
  • PokéStops can be at a museum, park, or someone’s backyard. Be mindful of your surroundings and how your gameplay impacts the people and places around you. Look where you’re going, don’t trespass, act disruptively, or reveal someone else’s location—respect is more important than Pokémon.
  • Self-Image & Identity
  • When you set up your Pokémon Go character, did you base it on your real self? The nickname, gender, and appearance you select is an opportunity to introduce yourself to other players and help them get a sense of who you are. Don’t misrepresent yourself or mislead people; be honest and authentic.
  • Information Literacy
  • Catching Pokémon will introduce you to new people and places. Instead of automatically going wherever the game takes you, stop to evaluate if it’s in a safe location and who else will be there. Before you download or click on something that promises to make you a better player, do some research to make sure it’s credible.
  • Creative Credit & Copyright
  • Have you looked up ways to get better at Pokémon Go? Since you’re on a team, it can be tempting to share all the tips you find. Make sure you have permission to pass the info along and remember to cite your resources; it prevents plagiarism and recognizes the person who worked hard to get ahead in the game.

In addition to emphasizing digital etiquette, Pokémon Go can be used to reopen general safety discussions with your students. Remind them to tell an adult where they’re going, always travel with friends, and stay alert so they don’t wander into traffic or bump into other people.

What other ways can you tie Pokémon Go into your lesson plans? Share in the comments below!