The New York State Senate today passed two pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Klein that protect children from high level sexual predators using Pokémon GO or other augmented reality games.
“While children believe they are out to catch a pokémon, what might really be lurking could be a predator instead of a Pikachu. There have been documented instances of sex offenders playing Pokémon GO as a means to locate children and it makes no sense at all to give these dangerous individuals a virtual road map to where our kids congregate. My legislation updates our law that already prohibits high level predators from using social media and holds game makers accountable from removing in-game features from within 100-feet of sex offenders,” said Senator Klein.
In late July, Senator Klein released an alarming investigative report, “Protecting Our Children: How Pokémon GO and Augmented Reality Games Expose Children to Sex Offenders.” The investigation, conducted in New York City, found that in the majority of cases either Pokémon materialized in front of the homes of sexual predators or in-game objectives were located within a half-block from a sexual predator’s home.
As the Pokémon GO craze continued, Senator Klein conducted investigations on Long Island and in Westchester/Rockland counties on sex offender residences and in-game objectives and the findings were similarly disturbing.
“There could be real-world consequences for children playing augmented reality games and we cannot let them linger in front of the homes of sex offenders. We devised simple solutions to the problem in light of our eye-opening investigation so our laws stay up-to-date as technology advances and today is an important step forward,” said Senator Savino.
“Augmented reality games like Pokemon GO have been an example of the potential value of new technologies but we have seen too many examples in our community of how close children can come to danger while playing them. Parents should be able to let their kids enjoy games like these without the concern of coming into contact with sexual predators or other undesirable situations. Passing this legislation will help prohibit sexual offenders from being able to play games like Pokémon GO and help make our community safer,” Said Senator Carlucci.
In light of the alarming findings, Senator Klein introduced legislation, which the Senate passed, to prohibit Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from playing augmented reality games. Many high-level sex offenders are already prohibited from using social media.
The Senate also passed legislation sponsored by Senator Klein, requiring game developers, like Pokémon GO creator Niantic, to regularly scour the Department of Criminal Justice website to obtain sex offender addresses and remove all in-game objectives within 100-feet of their residencies.