Four Ways to Make Pokémon GO Safer for Kids

It's not all fun and games when kids' privacy is put at risk with this popular game taking the world by storm. By Ariel Fox Johnson
Four Ways to Make Pokémon GO Safer for Kids

Common Sense is calling out the maker of the wildly popular app Pokémon GO because the company appears to have traded children's privacy and security concerns for maximum profit. We've got nothing against making a profit, but we have a big concern when it's done at the expense of kids' safety and privacy.

In our letter, we ask that the company take several steps to change the app to ensure greater privacy, security, and safety for minors who use the game, including:

  • being more transparent with parents, so they can make informed and meaningful choices for their kids who want to play the game;
  • proactively protecting the physical safety of children and teens playing the game;
  • ensuring privacy and security in the game from the ground up;
  • and committing to not treat children as business assets who can be bought and sold for advertising and other purposes.

Pokémon GO is arguably already the most popular mobile game in history. It has been downloaded over 20 million times and boasts a daily population of more active users than Twitter. Because many of these users are children, Niantic must pay far greater attention to the impact of Pokémon GO on those children's privacy, security, and safety.

Common Sense Kids Action fights on behalf of all kids, from online privacy to paid family leave. Join our efforts and become a Kids Action advocate today!

About Ariel Fox Johnson

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As Common Sense's Senior Counsel for Policy and Privacy, Ariel advocates for smart practices, policies, and rules to help all kids thrive in today’s wired world. Her work focuses on child, teen, and student privacy,... Read more

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Comments (8)

Parent of a 10 year old written by Jennifer S

My son wants to play this game, but I told him that until they fix the security on the game, that he was going to have to wait. Today he saw the "Filling" station at Wal-mart and got all upset. I know to him I'm being a bad Mom, but I'll take that over his security any day.
Parent of a 7 and 10 year old written by Carrie H.

Yes - read the whole letter. The brief blog entry is a bit overly general but the letter has full detail about concerns. Great job. I was struck by "not sharing location data about players under 13 with advertisers" that suggests an industry standard has evolved that by the time you're 14, you're fair game for having a marketing profile developed etc! Had no idea.
Parent of a 13 and 14 year old written by sorcha112

I have also played this game myself, and am surprised by the number of concerns in regards to safety. According to my observations, many of the parents who have concerns about the safety of this game haven't given a second thought to allowing their children to have several social media accounts. I'm curious about what makes this game seem less safe than any of the social media sites.
Parent of a 7 year old written by rockymtngirl

Thanks Common Sense (and James Steyer and his team) for writing that letter. It did a great job addressing many important points in relation to children's safety!
Adult written by ContikiCarrie

What a thoughtful, well-written letter! Thank you, Common Sense, for your vigilance and your advocacy on behalf of our children. Bravo!
Parent of a 8 and 11 year old written by Sarina N.

Thank you for this! Readers, if you haven't read the actual letter, its worth reading. (click "calling out" link at beginning of article.) As a parent educator, I have been very concerned with the exact safety issues this letter addresses.
Parent written by CaliforniaLove

I've played this game quite a lot (I have 61 on my Pokedex). I don't think the game was really designed for kids to get the full experience out of. I think it was designed for teens and young adults who grew up with Pokemon. Maybe they could catch a few Pokemon while they're riding in the car, but overall, the full experience of the game involves walking all around town for miles and miles and miles a day. Specifically, you'd need to visit "Pokestops" that can be found at your local churches, monuments, businesses, etc, where you collect items that are essential for playing the game. You can't enjoy the game much if you aren't able to walk all around town all day with a smart phone. Which I'm assuming most kids aren't really able to do. As far as "tracking" goes, there's no way for a normal person to use this app to know where your kid is. Unless you have beef with a cyber hacker who has the ability to access Niantic's files and servers, you're going to be fine. There is a way, however, to know where and when each of your Pokemon were caught. But only by looking through the Pokemon on your own account. Overall, I don't think there's any security concerns at all.

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