Pokémon Go Update Encourages User Safety

Okay. I’m sure at this point people are getting sick of me talking about Pokémon Go but I honestly can’t get over how much hate the app is getting. Now, I will argue that there are a number of updates I’d still like to see come to the app but if I’m being honest, they all pertain to game play.

So you’re probably thinking, “But Josh, you’re all about safety and clearly this app isn’t safe. Don’t you want to see updates to make it safer?”

Have you not been reading?

I’ve said it time and time again that social networking application and sites as well as these games WANT their users to be safe. They have done everything in their power to help their users be safer but when it comes down to it, there requires a degree of common sense.

In the latest update for the app, Pokémon Go has taken steps to ensure that users are safe.

Now, if you recall from “What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go” the loading screen for the app features a Gyarados (I literally just learned what it was today when I caught one) with the warning “Remember to stay alert at all times! Stay aware of your surroundings!”

This warning has been there since day one.

Today, they have taken those reminders a step forward. As the app finishes loading, before the user can enter game play, a dialogue window will pop up with a new warning that users have to click on to make go away. Giving them a small reminder of safe game play.

Additionally , another aspect of the app is a speed sensor. As the app requires GPS to be on in order to catch Pokémon and as a result it knows your movement and how fast you are doing it.

Now, walking is a big part of the app as you can earn medals, find new Pokémon, hit the PokéStops and hatch eggs. In all generations of the app there has been a speed sensor and anyone moving faster than 12 MPH don’t receive “credit” for walking and it won’t count towards hatching eggs.screenshot_2016-08-09-21-25-22-1.png

In this latest update, Niantic has taken it a step further. When the app detects you going over a certain MPH (the exact number is unknown to me, I have experimented with it as a passenger and it varies too much to give a good answer).

The game itself won’t deactivate after a certain speed level but the warning is enough to give anyone pause.

Now, at the end of the day, it all comes down to whether or not the user chooses to heed the warnings.

So is Pokémon Go safe for your kids?

Yes.

The app is as safe as the user. I encourage parents to talk to their kids about safely using the app to hunt Pokémon.  Please review my warnings in my previous post “What Parents Should Know.”

I know I come across as defensive on the subject off Pokémon Go and I’m okay with it. Over the past month I’ve had a number of conversations (read: argument) about the safety and security of this app. Many people cite robberies and accidents (please read my post debunking rumors about the app) and others will point me towards news articles citing violence involving the app.

My problem is that a lot of these articles are what is known as “click bait”. They are purposely using words and phrases that will encourage someone to click on the link to earn money from advertisers. They will cite Pokémon Go as a part of the newsworthy event because it’s going to gain more attention.

This drives me insane.

Today, when my app updated, I was walking around Universal Studios playing the game with my friend. The game itself has been a major help to me over the past month. With all that has been going on in my hometown of Orlando and my anxiety disorder, it has been very difficult for me to do the things I love which is going to theme parks.

I don’t do well in crowds as it is but recent events have intensified that. Having the distraction of hunting down Pokémon has been a big help. I was able distracted from the summer crowds and even able to survive a 75 minute wait for a ride (I typically can’t handle more than 15 minutes).

It may not seem like much, but this little game has meant a lot.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Advertisements

Pokémon Go: Fact and Fiction (But Mostly Fiction)

I don’t even know how to start this. Seriously, I’ve been staring at the screen for an obscene amount of time trying to start this entry. I have to admit, I’m a little annoyed. I apologize now if this is jarred but I’m getting this off my chest.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been a casual player of Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game that has taken the world by storm. I haven’t been as intense as others, I have found a small chunk of joy in world that seems to be quickly running out.

Others have found amazing benefits from getting out and playing the game (check out this article!).

With someone making literally millions of people happy, you’d think non-Pokémon fans would just leave well enough alone.

HA! You’re wrong.

The game has earned its fair share of haters and the result has been a lot of fake or exaggerated news hitting the world wide web and casting doubt on the safety of the players.

First and foremost is the personal data aspect of the app that people don’t understand at all (I’m having flashbacks to the Facebook Messenger debate). I purposely left this out of my recent entry of What Parents Should Know because I felt it didn’t need mention. People seem to think the app is out to do everything from reading your email to stealing your baby brother after you have a temper tantrum (that’s the Goblin King you’re thinking of). It’s an argument (yes, argument) that I’ve had a lot this past week alone. I’m going to dispel the rumor now:

99% of the information you’ve seen about the app collecting personal data and emails is false.

In reality the app requires some basic information like your email address and birth date for the sake of registering users (an aspect just about every social media medium requires). From there the game does require knowing your physical whereabouts for the sake of simply playing the game. It’s an augmented-reality, map-based world. It needs to be able to track your movements to play.

There was, admittedly a hiccup in the original version (which was corrected in a recent update) that made it seem that Pokémon Go was requiring “full account access.” Niantic (the company behind the game) owned up to the mistake, corrected it, and released a statement to help clarify what had happened:

We recently discovered that the Pokémon GO account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon GO only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected. Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon GO or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.

Adam Reeve, the man behind the original claim, even admitted that he never tested the claims he made in his blog posts.

So please rest easy knowing that your emails and other information are safe.

Next comes the exaggerated story of the young man lured to a Pokestop and mugged at gunpoint. This one seemed so very true because it was widely covered by credible media outlets and not just the internet. But the story was exaggerated to generate views and interest in the story.

Here’s the real story directly from the victim of the attack: “I am the guy who was robbed at the Pokestop at Feise and K. In the interest of objective truth, everyone is reporting this wrong. There was never any lure. I was walking down a dark street towards a slightly out of the way pokestop and I got robbed by four kids in a black BMW. Everyone is reporting this as cunning teenagers use a lure to capture unsuspecting Pokémon players, and that’s not quite correct.”

Sorry internet.

Then there are the many stories of auto accidents as a result of drivers playing the game. One such article from CartelPress (read it here) was written as satire and was taken far too seriously and prompted the viral hashtag #DontPokémonAndDrive over this past weekend. Which, I mean, yeah… don’t Pokémon and Drive. Let’s practice common sense, but I also hope that no one would slam on the breaks in the middle of a highway for a Pidgey.

There is a great teachable moment in all of this in that you really can’t believe everything that you read on the internet and it’s important to do a little bit of research before jumping conclusions.

It is important to realize that there are some dangers to the game and the idea of “Don’t
Pokémon and Drive” should be on the top over everyone’s list. But people should take care into venturing off alone, especially at night, into unfamiliar territory. Take time to look up from your phone, looking out for others, obstacles and traffic.

Mostly, don’t let the haters bring you down. Plenty of people have tried to harp on me for playing and I am having none of it. The past month has been a rough one for a lot of people a hunting little fictional animals has been a very welcomed distraction from it all.

Now, if you don’t mind, there is a Charmander somewhere near my house and I need to beat the neighborhood children to him.

Happy hunting!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is everywhere and what better time than summer to launch the biggest gaming app in history? Kids, young and old, are getting out of the house and exploring their world in a whole new way.  An entire generation of students that have become so comfortable sitting at home interacting with the world through a tethered device and getting out of the house and  on the move. But summer has a way of ending far too quickly and based on my email inbox, teachers are already wondering what impact the app will have in the school environment.

Please note that I am a big fan of the game and have been playing, casually, with friends since its inception but I do share the concern of the app being disruptive to the learning environment.

If it were up to me, come the beginning of the school year, geofences (the same use to block YikYak) would be placed around schools to help reduce the number of issues.

I have been repeatedly told that I’m not in charge… so I guess I’ll go with plan B. How can educators take advantage of the craze and utilize Pokémon hunting in the classroom?

I have managed to spend an entire day tearing the internet apart to find some of the best ideas for pulling the educational benefits from the game.

e62c6b5e-4bc6-47e4-a8cd-e0bfed0eb152

We discovered the Susan Russell House in Somerville in what I can only assume was Pokemon Go’s attempt to get me eaten by a wildly haunted house.

One that I would like to highlight came to mind while I was playing the game with a friend during a recent trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts when I noticed that PokeStops seemed the center on art instillations and historical landmarks. As a result we discovered hidden gems that we never knew existed in a town where we spent a good chunk of our youth.

Have students keep a log of where they have hunted and things they have learned on their
adventures. Many PokeStops offer a brief tidbit of information about the site. Encourage students to learn a bit more about each place they visit!

Here are some additional resources and ideas I really enjoyed reading and could offer some ideas for teachers:

How Pokémon GO Can Teach Social Skills to Children and Young People with Autism
Explore Everything with Pokémon GO (Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences)
Everything Librarians Need to Know About Pokémon GO
Three Ways Playing Pokémon GO Can Make You Smarter
Three Ways Pokémon GO Can Create Meaningful Learning Opportunities

Additional readind:
Pokémon GO’s Mental Health Benefits Are Real

And of course be sure to check out Monday’s Entry: “What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go

Happy hunting friends!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go

I will be the first to admit that until about a week ago, I really knew nothing about Pokémon other than the absolute basics. I never was much into the card game though I totally rocked it on my GameBoy (I might be old). Love em or hate em, those adorable little creatures are back with a vengeance!

Within homaxresdefaulturs of launching, Pokémon Go became the most popular gaming app, beating out Candy Crush by an impressive margin.

The game was released to mixed, overall, reviews due to constant app crashes and server issues. The app seems to be stabilizing and I have a feeling a good chunk of the problems were due to the insane and instant popularity.

The game is a location-based augmented reality game that allows users to hunt and capture Pokémon in the real world.

Pokémon Go has had some amazing, unexpected benefits that I think are important to know about before I get into the nitty gritty of it all.

Physical Health: In order the catch Pokémon you have to get out into the real world. As a result people are out and about a lot more. I’m an active person already but the game has definitely added to that. In addition having to get out of the house to catch Pokémon, the game requires you to be moving to perform actions like hatching captured Pokémon eggs and earning badges.

People Are Exploring Their World: Within the game are places called PokéStops where486234394 players can earn items  required for capturing and caring for their Pokémon. These stops are centered around landmarks such as art instillations and historical points. Not only are people getting out of the house but they are also exploring the world a bit more closely than before. When I was playing with a friend we decided to go for a morning walk before going to breakfast to catch some Pokémon. We ended up discovering an amazing bakery and opted for breakfast there over heading to Starbucks.

Community Impact: People have become social again! I grew up in a small town where people always said “howdy” when they passed you in the street. This mentality seems to have waned with the advent of social media an mobile devices. No one really talks to each other anymore.  Pokémon Go has changed that. While playing my friend and I encountered groups of kids who were more than happy to chat and share tips and good spots to catch some Pokémon. It was a welcome change from everyone just ignoring each other.

Cultural Impact: With PokéStops being located at places of cultural significance, places like museums have seen increased attendance since the game has launched. Many businesses have embraced this by placing “lures” (more on those in a bit) at the Stops to drive even more people to them.  Charitable organizations have gotten in on the actions by asking players to walk shelter dogs while playing adding a benefit to the player and the animal.13716248_668832679948316_2126915807547160753_n

Mental Health: With people being forced to get up and out of the house to play, many have seen a positive impact on mental health especially for those dealing with depression and social anxiety.  According to Kashmira Gander of The Independent, the social nature of the game provides easy avenues for those with social anxiety to interact with people of all backgrounds. Numerous players also reported increased motivation to exercise and improved moods. Dr. John Grohol, founder of Psych Central, stated that Pokémon Go was unique in the magnitude of people “expressing the benefits of playing video games to their real-world mental health status”. According to Grohol, the game facilitates exercise and creates a “strong reinforcement for people to go out and become more active” He also attributed the premise of the game, social interaction and fun rather than for exercise, as a key factor in its success.

With all that in mind there are some key things parents should know and be aware of before they send their kids out to catch ’em all.

Hidden and Not So Hidden Costs: While the game itself is free, there is the ability for in-app purchases so parents should be aware and set up restrictions on your child’s phone to prevent unauthorized purchases.  Additionally, the game depends and operates on constant location tracking which requires the use of your phone’s data. Be sure to monitor your child’s data usage or look at upgrading your plan to avoid overage charges.

Stranger Danger:  While it’s great that communities are coming together and people are chatting with one another, there is a danger in that as well. Encourage kids to Poke hunt in groups and avoid going into unfamiliar areas. Each PokéStop and Gym require you to be nearby and this can draw people from all walks. Be sure to set up guidelines for your kids when it comes to talking to strangers as well as curfews to help avoid issues.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: A downside of the game is that you need to be paying attention to your screen and this can lead to some major problems. While it’s hardpokemon-go-loading-screen to sort myth from reality, there are many stories of people getting injured while playing the game. From walking into objects or, worse, into traffic, there are dangers out there.

Don’t Hunt and Drive: For teenagers, be sure to reiterate the importance of keeping the phone off while driving. No fictional creature is worth getting into an accident.

Be Respectful: The game is designed for Pokémon to spawn anywhere in the world but that doesn’t mean that we should be pulling out our phones every second of the day.  I’m personally hoping the games geofences areas like cemeteries, the Holocaust Museum , etc, places where people have, thoughtlessly, disturbed the solemn nature of the memorials looking for Pokémon.

Don’t Trespass: It’s important to be sure not to enter places that you shouldn’t be going for the sake of finding Pokémon. Remind kids to respect other people’s property and places that are off-limits.

All said and done, I see no big fault in the app aside from some safety concerns mentioned above. While many people have taken to hating on the game, I think it has been a welcome distraction from the current state of the world. People of all ages have taken to hunting Pokémon and it’s something that’s made them happy, gotten them out exercising and socializing.

Let’s get out there and be happy!

Good hunting all!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.