CCFC to Niantic: Don’t Use Pokemon GO to Lure Children to Sponsors’ Locations

For Immediate Release

CCFC to Niantic: Don’t Use Pokemon GO to Lure Children to Sponsors’ Locations

BOSTON - Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is calling on Niantic, Inc., the producers of Pokemon GO, to protect children who play the popular new game from commercial exploitation. In a petition launched today, CCFC urged Niantic to not lure children under thirteen to visit sponsored “PokeStops” and “Pokemon Gyms,” or deliver to them any targeted advertisements based on their location. 

Pokemon GO is a location-based augmented reality (AR) game which requires players to visit specific real world places—called “PokeStops” and “Pokemon Gyms”—in order to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures. Niantic says Pokemon GO encourages players to “Get Up, Get Out, and Explore.” But Niantic is selecting some PokeStops and Gyms based on paid sponsorships, using the game’s incredible appeal to entice customers to brick and mortar establishments, and McDonald’s is one of the first sponsors. In Japan, every McDonald’s is already a Pokemon GO hot spot. Once children playing the game arrive at the restaurant, they're enticed to buy Happy Meals with Pokemon GO toys. 

“No child should be lured to McDonald’s or any other sponsor’s establishment while playing Pokemon GO,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director of CCFC. “If Niantic wants to cash in on the game’s enormous popularity by herding players to its sponsors’ locations, it should exclude children from this type of marketing.” 

Added Angela J. Campbell, Georgetown Law Professor and CCFC Board Member, “It is the height of hypocrisy for Niantic to tout Pokemon GO as a means to get children outside, then use the game to sell Happy Meals.” 

Pokemon GO collects a wealth of data about its players, including their geolocation, as they play the game. CCFC is also urging Niantic to refrain from delivering any personalized ads to children based on this data. Because all players are required to provide their birthdate at sign-up, Niantic can easily identify and protect players under 13. 

In addition to advertising concerns, advocates and experts have noted that Pokemon GO presents a host of threats to users’ safety and privacy, particularly for younger players. “This is a watershed moment not only for Pokemon GO, but for the burgeoning augmented reality industry,” said Golin. “Will Niantic take the precautions necessary to make Pokemon GO a safe environment for children? Or will AR just be another gimmick to make kids 'Get up, get out, and go to McDonald’s?'”

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The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).

 

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