Can 'Pokemon Go' Be Exploited By Child Predators?

| by David Bonner
A Pokemon in a supermarketA Pokemon in a supermarket

Pokemon Go -- the app which allows players to fight digital monsters in the real world across the country -- is the latest sensation from the Pokemon franchise. It was founded in 1995 as a video game based on fictional creatures called Pokemon, which players catch and train to battle each other.

The app allows smartphone users to chase and attempt to catch Pokemon characters in public places as they appear in locations on their phone screens.

When in the presence of a virtual Pokemon, the player's phone will vibrate, and the Pokemon can be captured by throwing a virtual "Pokeball" at the target.

However, there are potential dangers involved in playing the game, as the Daily Mail reports.

There have been incidents of players being injured in pursuit of Pokemon. While staring at their screen, some people have hurt themselves while walking into things or falling down, despite warnings by the developers urging players not to do that.

Kyrie Tompkins of Maine, for example, fell down and twisted her ankle, the Daily Mail reported.

One participant noted on Reddit that playing the game landed him in the emergency room after he fell into a ditch while not paying attention to where he was going. In addition to the embarrassment of falling into a ditch while chasing a make-believe monster, the tumble resulted in a broken foot.

On Twitter, a user voiced her concern about the “lure” feature of the game, which allows users to attract gamers to a particular area by causing Pokemon characters to appear there.

She worries that pedophiles could use that feature to lure children into a trap. With that in mind, she conducted an experiment using the lure feature, and sure enough several children arrived at the location within moments.

In Missouri, the lure function has already been used for 'nefarious' purposes. There, teenagers used the app to entice gamers into secluded areas and then robbed them, according to police.

Sergeant Bill Stringer blamed the crime on the fact that the gamers were “not aware of their surroundings because they're staring at their phones,” explaining that “the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims,” using the geolocation feature, notes the Daily Mail.

The teens were apprehended and charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.

Another gamer, Shayla Wiggins, reportedly found a human corpse floating in a lake as she pursued a Pokemon, though the dead body was reportedly unrelated to the game.

The massive popularity of Pokemon Go in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand since its release on July 6 has caused some technical glitches, so plans to release the Pokemon Go app in Europe, South America, and Canada have been put on hold while the issues are worked out.

Sources: Daily Mail, Pokemon / Photo credit: MJLeaver/Twitter via Daily Mail, Robin/Twitter via Daily Mail

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