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App of the Week: Pokemon GO, reviewed for students

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

Pokemon GO

What’s It Like? Pokémon GO is an insanely popular augmented reality game (based on the huge franchise of video games, card games, and other media) that requires an internet connection with GPS tracking and movement in the real world. Playing the game, which appeals to a wide range of ages, involves various safety and security issues. Privacy concerns are being explored and addressed, so it’s best to consistently update to the current version and check your settings. Other risks include physical injury due to distraction, being directed to unsafe places or onto private property, and even becoming a target for assault or robbery (all of these things have already happened to players in the real world). A player’s location is tracked, stored, and revealed to nearby players, including both children and adults

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

Is it any good: If the execution were clean and privacy and safety weren’t concerns, this would be a brilliant game — and certainly lots of people are having a great time playing it. Sadly, the experience has a range of poor design choices, technical issues, and security risks.

Still, there’s something magical about the social phenomenon and immediate point of connection with other players: Everywhere you go — in libraries, at the grocery store, on the street — people are playing Pokémon GO and approaching each other, smiling and talking enthusiastically about their collections, strategies, and levels. This positive reception indicates players’ willingness to overlook the game’s imperfections, as well as the stories of distracted players getting hurt, lost, or robbed.

Discussion points:


  • Talk about physical safety. It’s great to get out in the world and be active, but it’s not safe to walk, ride, or drive while looking at your phone. Also, your family’s rules about neighborhood boundaries and keeping safe outside should apply.
  • Talk about finding balance between using a screen and other activities. Though Pokémon GO is more active than some games and encourages interaction, it’s still an on-screen experience. How can you find a stopping point?
  • Why do app/game companies want to collect user data? What do you think they do with it?
  • Why do you think this particular game is so popular? What sets it apart from other games, and why does it appeal to such a wide range of players? What makes it so fun, and how can the whole family play together safely?


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