New York state officials think PokemonGo might be a great tool for sex offenders to kidnap children—gotta catch ’em all!—and now the governor himself, Andrew Cuomo, is calling for legislation. He might as well have said, Parents, please go out of your minds with fear about an extremely remote danger we are exploiting to get your love and votes.
The legislation proposed by the governor today would prevent sex offenders on parole from playing the game in which animated creatures—from Nintendo’s Pokemon universe—appear on your phone screen while you walk around. The legislation proposed Friday by Sen. Jeff Klein (D) and Diane Savino (D) also calls upon the game’s creators to eliminate any Pokemon within 100 feet of a registered sex offender’s home.
These might sound like ideas that will keep children out of the clutches of dangerous criminals. But in fact, they are based on two discredited ideas. One is “stranger danger” itself. The other is the notion that knowing where sex offenders live (and avoiding those places) actually makes kids safer.
Stranger danger is the mistaken belief that strangers are the people most likely to hurt our children, leaping out from behind bushes to snatch them off the street. While this fear resonates for many people—including and especially politicians—the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has labeled stranger danger an idea it is time to “retire.” This is the group that put the missing kids’ pictures on the milk cartons, so it’s not like some bleeding heart soft-on-crime organization.