Strangers were increasingly lurking around the Little Blessings Childcare Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, following it becoming a ‘gym’ in the popular augmented reality game.
A spokeswoman for the NDNA said it is ‘only a matter of time’ before childcare settings in the UK experience similar problems, with community centres and local landmarks often being allocated as ‘Gyms’ and PokéStops where players can catch Pokémon, collect Poke Balls and other items.
Users were being drawn to the setting and caused a safeguarding concern for a few weeks until the site was removed from the game.
Jo Baranek, NDNA lead early years advisor, said, ‘Pokémon Go has clearly got its good points, in that it’s getting people out and physically active. But if people are hanging around outside nurseries this presents a safeguarding issue.
‘If a nursery becomes a popular place for gamers and attracts a lot of people, not only does it make real threats harder to spot but it publicises its location to those who wouldn’t normally be there. It could also create a reason for unsavoury characters to hang around with phone cameras at the ready.’
Ms Baranek advises nurseries to submit an online request to the game’s developer if they are made into a ‘gym’ and would like to be removed from the game. She also suggests that nursery staff can take practical safety measures by reinforcing messages to children about not talking to strangers and reporting any worries to a trusted adult.
‘Don’t forget to make staff aware too, so they aren’t distracted or playing the game while driving close to the nursery – and remind parents about general monitoring of apps and IT,’ she added.
‘There are obvious safety issues connected to children walking while looking at screens, as there are for adults, such as bumping into objects, falling down holes and walking into roads. Parents need to consider this if their children show an interest in the game.’
To contact game developers Niantic to request the removal of a PokéStop or Gym go to: https://support.pokemongo.nianticlabs.com.
- Email us at email@example.com if your nursery has been involved in any Pokémon Go incidents.