Fans of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World can use GPS to walk around streets and see ‘magical artefacts’ which are superimposed onto player’s surrounding via their camera lens. However, the NSPCC has warned that young players should remain “wary of adding people you know from other platforms” as they “may not be who they say they are.”
In a blog post, the NSPCC said: “Parents should also be aware that players may want to find out more about the game using other platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Reddit and Discord, where other game fans can discuss strategies and experiences.
“There are associated risks with online groups like Discord as they will be self-moderated, with the potential to speak to strangers and be exposed to inappropriate content”.
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A spokesman for London-based charity Kidscape has also urged parents to “set boundaries” on screen time and make their children aware that they should only add other players who they are familiar with in “the real world.”
Since Niantic released Pokémon Go in 2016, the app has been downloaded more than one billion times and has generated in excess of $2 billion in revenue. As Pokémon Go took the world by storm, the NSPCC had highlighted its concerns regarding the app stating that it left children “susceptible to being hijacked”.
In addition, MP Anna Turley said the app was increasingly leading people to trespass on religious sites.
Former Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron MP added that “hearing serious crimes are committed using Pokémon is worrying, especially as a dad with kids who love the game”.
During the month of Pokémon Go’s UK release, July 2018, there were almost 300 incidents recorded by police relating to robberies, assaults and thefts. In response to parent’s increasing concern regarding their children’s safety, Niantic had said it urged players to “abide by local laws”.
“Remember, certain interactions that seem harmless or fun to you may be perceived in a different way by bystanders or other players,” the game’s website had said.
While much of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will be familiar to Pokémon Go players, there is plenty of Potterisation of its mechanics and its own twists.
Commenting on the Potter-themed game, a spokesman for Niantic said: “One of our core missions is to encourage safe outdoor play and exercise. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is available to players of all ages.
“Children need to get parental consent through the Niantic Kids Parent Portal before playing the game. The Niantic Kids Parent Portal is powered by SuperAwesome Kids Web Services, a service certified by ESRB Privacy Certified and by the kidSAFE Seal Program.
“Additionally, we also believe that parents and guardians know their children and neighbourhoods best, and we ask them to be mindful and monitor their child’s online and offline activities, so it is a fun and safe experience for all.”
Niantic has also encouraged players to “be aware of their surroundings” and to play the new game with people they know particularly “when you’re exploring unfamiliar places”.