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NSPCC ‘Disappointed’ Pokémon Go Owners Launch UK Version Without Addressing Child Safety Concerns

NSPCC ‘Disappointed’ Pokémon Go Owners Launch UK Version Without Addressing Child Safety Concerns
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Pokémon Go has launched in the UK and ignored demands from the NSPCC to address safety concerns for children.

NSPCC’s CEO, Peter Wanless, previously wrote to the game’s owners urging them to make the app safe before launch. 

However the app launched on Thursday 14 July 2016, without clarification on why the safety measures hadn’t been put into place. 

The charity is worried that offenders could target unsuspecting children by using the app’s geolocation feature to lure them into traps.

“It’s deeply troubling that the app’s owners have ignored many warning signals and well documented child safety concerns,” an NSPCC spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK.

“It would have been better if they had taken time to reflect on these and put their young users first. Pokémon Go is the first augmented reality game on the market in the UK, which means it’s setting a precedent.

“It’s very disappointing that child safety isn’t at its heart.”

Sam Mircovich / Reuters

Prior to Pokémon Go’s UK launch, Wanless sent a letter to owners Nintendo and Niantic.

“Given Pokémon’s already massive popularity with children, the NSPCC is concerned that basic safety standards appear to have been overlooked,” he wrote.

“I urge you to urgently reassess your app and its security and safety features.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected and as creators of a game with substantive reach, you have a weighty responsibility to protect your young users.

“I’m asking you to use this opportunity to reassess its safety and ensure you have security and reporting functions which will still allow children to play but, crucially, keep them safe when they do.”

Wanless said as members of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), the NSPCC will be raising this as an issue of concern at their next meeting.

“We urge you to look at the guide, developed by UKCCIS this year, which was developed for social media and interactive services to ingrain online child safety into web or mobile businesses,” he added in the letter. 

Wanless reminded companies that the internet has been exploited by some adults to target children, and without the right security features the app could be used as a gateway for potential offenders.

Since launching, there have been reports of children being placed in dangerous situations as they play the game, the NSPCC stated. 

When popularity of the game heightened at the beginning of July 2016 thanks to players in America discussing it on social media, the NSPCC immediately issued their concerns.

At the time, a spokesman told The Huffington Post UK: “Given its massive popularity with children it’s worrying that this game appears susceptible to being hijacked by those who may wish to harm them.

“When creating these games companies must consider the potential risks to young users and do everything they can to make sure their app doesn’t put them in danger.

“Manufacturers can help protect children by giving them safety reminders about privacy and location controls and make it easy for them to report things that worry them.

“It is also important for parents to stay aware of what their children are using online and talk to them about how to stay safe.”

The NSPCC have said parents can visit the Net Aware site to help them learn more about how children use the internet.

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