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Tips for Staying Safe and Being a Good Citizen While Pokemon Going

Pokemon Go LogoYou’ve probably at least heard about Pokemon Go if not seen folks out and about playing it. It’s been massively popular even though it’s only been out for a relatively short time. Business Insider reports that it has surpassed Tindr’s participants and may soon exceed Twitter’s participants.

It’s popular for a reason, and it’s getting people out of the house and connected. As with all things, it’s important to remember to exercise common sense and courtesy. (Most of the issues I’ve seen related to over excitement with the game and a lack of awareness, but those can be corrected.) With that said, here are some of the common issues I have noted and that, if you or a loved one is playing, you may want to bring to their attention.

Trespassing is Still Illegal

This has been the question I’ve received most from local teens and even a few off the Internet. Many hope that there might be a rare Pokemon exception. But trespassing is still trespassing even if there’s an uber rare Pokemon on the other side of the fence.

If you cannot get to one of the Pokemon, and it is on a piece of private property, you can’t go in without permission. Same thing goes for crossing private property to get to another location. This means that you can get the cops called on you if you break in, and, in some locations and under certain circumstances, it could even become a felony, particularly if you are opening up sheds or entering garages in search of Pokemon.Keep Out Private Property

 

Be Respectful of the Locations You Enter

Pokemon appear at random in various locations. However, you have to remember that they are not always going to appear in appropriate places for Pokemon hunting. The game itself uses landmarks, historical points, and so forth as Pokestops and battle zones. This unfortunately includes locations like the Holocaust Museum in D.C. The Holocaust Museum has formally requested that they be removed from Pokemon Go because people keep showing up to hunt Pokemon, which is disrespectful to the victims of the Holocaust and the purpose of the museum.

Many Pokestops and Pokemon can be found in churches, mosques, gyms, libraries, public service buildings, landmarks that may include tours, and businesses. It’s not entirely clear how these are chosen, but if you do go to one, be respectful of the location. Don’t interrupt a meeting. Don’t climb the statues. Think before you do. Chasing Pokemon is not a legal defense in any location.

Most of the time, you can access the points from outside the building and move on. Battles take longer. Hunting may take you inside. But rest assured that the Pokemon will return again and in other locations, so even in that case, you should avoid bursting into a children’s reading, interrupting a funeral, and so on.

Your Awareness of Your Surroundings Will Be Diminished

Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of people think they can multitask without any problem, and sometimes it’s true in limited circumstances. I’m usually a pretty good multitasker myself. I read and walk all the time. But Pokemon Go is much more absorbing. I did a couple tests with some teens and my own playing of the game, and I have to tell you…the results weren’t good.

Stay AwareNot only was I unable to see anything until it was pretty much on me but even my awareness of sounds was significantly diminished. Focusing in on the game is quite absorbing, which is how most games are. If you are playing, you must make a conscious effort to pay attention to your surroundings. Pokemon Go even encourages this every time you load it up (otherwise you’re going to get eaten by a blue dragon).

Remember that the game does not require that you always look at it. Your phone will vibrate or buzz when a Pokemon is within your radius. So while you are walking, regularly look away from the screen and take in your surroundings. Pay particular attention to the streets.

Under No Circumstances Should You Drive Anything While Playing

This is closely connected to the above point, but it is such a huge issue that it deserves its own section: do not, under any circumstances, play Pokemon Go while driving!

People often have misguided beliefs in their abilities to multitask, and this becomes especially problematic with driving. Most people understand the dangers of drunk driving or buzzed driving. However, driving while on your phone is actually worse than driving drunk or buzzed, and it can increase the risk of crashing by 23 percent. More importantly, this focused on texting or talking on the phone in incidents that involve you taking your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Pokemon Go will easily absorb more of your attention.

So just don’t do it. Understand that this extends to golf carts as well as bicycles and motorcycles.

If you can’t get a friend to drive you around and can’t walk, you can look for eager entrepreneurs who are willing to chauffeur you. But do not, do not, do not drive.

If You Are An Adult, Act Like One

There have been lots of stories put out about all the adults behaving badly with this game. This isn’t Pokemon Go’s fault, nor does it seem to be the majority of the users. As with most things, it’s a few annoying folk who are making the rest looking bad.

One thing that you should do though if you are an adult playing around kids is that you are, in fact, an adult. While at an amusement park, I watched a grown man leap into the middle of the playground to get to an ultra rare and shoving past a bunch of tweens who were also trying to get it. As hard as it may be, consider stepping back and letting the little ones have the ultra rares. Or at least don’t knock them out of the way if you decide to try and snag it.

Keep the Noise Down

It’s common knowledge that some Pokemon are only available when it’s dark out, but remember that some people are sleeping. This goes back to exercising common courtesy. I know it’s easy to forget, particularly when you’re coordinating. Some noise is expected during day, but many towns and communities have expected quiet hours between 10 am and 7 am. Even if yours doesn’t, it’s a courtesy you should extend.

Always Check Pokemon Go Stories

This should go without saying for everything we share. But most people don’t verify the articles they read online. Over the weekend, a number of awful stories about Pokemon Go broke out, ranging from tales of kids killing one another over it to gang attacks to even the discovery of dead bodies. As it turns out, the majority of these stories came from places like Story Cartel, which is a satirical site. In other words, they never happened.

Sometimes the stories are based on facts that subsequently become distorted. For instance, the game allows you to log in using your Google account information. A bug appeared on the iOS version that allowed for greater access though Niantic claimed that they did not take advantage of that. That report, however, was greatly exaggerated as articles started breaking out, claiming that Niantic was able to mine every bit of data about you from your Google account, failing to account for the fact that this was a limited bug that is in process of being corrected.

With that said…

Understand that You Are Sharing Data

When you play Pokemon Go, you are releasing a lot of information about yourself to the game and in some respects to the world at large.

Now as far as the “access to all Google data,” Niantic has confirmed with Google and reported that that glitch will be fixed and no extra information beyond basic profile information has been accessed even on the iOS where the glitch occurred. This was confirmed on Macbook, and the update is currently available.

With that said, understand that you are still sharing basic information, probably more than you know. This is true for most apps. Always read the fine print (I know it’s a pain) and look at the specific permissions you are granting.

In this case, the app will be accessing your basic information as well as your camera and your GPS, which means your location is being tracked. Again. This isn’t uncommon, but before you give up your privacy, you should understand what that means.

Avoid Going Out Alone or Into Dangerous Locations

Some of the stories circulating revolve around predators using incense and other in-game tools to lure in rare monsters that in turn lure in players, allowing them to mug or kidnap them. These stories have been particularly popular because they are well within the realm of possibility, and some, Pokemon Go Pedo Bearsuch as the case in Missouri where robbers used the game to target victims, are true.

Again, you must remain aware of your surroundings. Before walking into a part of town you don’t know, check it out. Take a friend with you. Don’t go anywhere alone at night. And if it looks sketchy, then don’t risk it. Do not get into a stranger’s car or enter a stranger’s house, even if the stranger says it’s fine.

So there you have it. Some of the things that you should keep in mind if you or a loved one are playing. All in all, while the game is working out its early issues, I think it has a lot of great potential to it. I love seeing people out and about. I haven’t seen this many teens in the park in all my time here, and even in this heat, they are out having a great time. The game does require that the players be careful and use commonsense, but, in fairness, even old classics like hide-and-seek and tag require the same thing.

 

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