UCB Parents Advice about School-aged Kids
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Advice about School-aged Kids
I'm wondering if anyone can explain what Pokemon's are and what they
represent. I know there are lots of little characters that are
associated with trading cards, video games and such but I'm not sure for what
age level they are appropriate. I have a four year son who has begun
requesting Pokemons due to influence from his friends at day care. I
thought these characters were geared toward the pre-teens. Are they
similiar to the Power Rangers and Ninga Turtles that my son is not
allowed to play with or are they more towards the Disney/ Blues Clues end
of the spectrum?
Pokemon are little "critters" from various sources such as water,
fire, plant, etc. They evolve into different stages by battling
other Pokemon. No one dies -- they just battle each other using
their powers. Battles are usually short. The object is to "catch"
as many Pokemon as possible as a trainer. There is actually quite a bit
of strategy to catching, evolving and battling Pokemon which
surprised me. For a young child, the fun is in collecting and
trading cards, wearing the t-shirts, watching the videos. The older
kids get into the strategy part--who can beat who, what evolves into
what, etc. I've watched the cartoon show and played my son the card game
and decided that it was a positive form of entertainment (whereas the Power
time.) The only warning I would have is to wheedle cards from the
younger kids as the young kids don't always realize trading is for
Sigh. Pokemon is the current big thing that's addictive to the 4-10
year old crowd -- think Power Rangers, or Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles, and hopefully, this too, shall pass. It's Japanese, and some
of the cards and toys are of course, quite valuable. The name Pokemon
is an acronym for Pocket Monsters. There are 150 of these little
monsters, some cute, some weird, some just plain ugly. It doesn't stop
there -- these creatures evolve into other creatures: ie Pikachu
(endearing mouse) evolves into Raichu (not so endearing mouse)
etc. There are human teenagers who "train" the creatures. There are
card games that involve trading and strategy. The cards list different
types of strength and weaknesses, and "damage" levels.
I'm sure I'm missing major portions, but my son, almost 7, adores
this . It drives us nuts, but we indulge up to a point.
For those parents who want to know more, I recommend the Official
Pokemon Handbook published by Scholastic. Your child will adore it, but
you'll actually begin to understand this mysterious phenomenon.
I know very little about Pokemon, other than that it appears to be a
fad that has swept in upon our children like the fog over the bay. I
look forward to other parents comments too. My almost-5 son has
jumped head first into it, thanks to his cousin ("hey, look what I
have") and grandmother ("grandma, would you get me Pokemon"? "OK").
I've looked at his cards, and while they are designed in a cute
fashion, they tend more toward Power Ranger/Ninja Turtle than
Disney/Blues Clues (in fact nothing like Blues Clues). I myself
intend to do more research into Pokemon to see if it is appropriate
for our family. On the surface Pokemon doesn't appear to be real
violent and such, but it certainly isn't entirely innocent of the
flavor of competition and "mine card beats yours".
Pokemon are a big hit among elementary school kids (my son included).
But my four yr old daughter is into them now too. There are trading cards,
a board game, gameboy games, videos, etc...
The cards are harmless-depict cute little creatures with funny names.
The computer games and the videos show the cute little creatures battling
each other. So I say buy a pack of cards for your child ($3 at the comic
store on University just above Shattuck).
I watched my younger siblings play Pokemon a little and this is what
I was able to construe: Your playing character explores a rather vast
terrain and attempts to discover, capture, and train a multitude of various
"wild" Pokemon which inhabit the terrain. I think there are 4 different
Pokemon cartridges, at least for the Gameboy, and you have to have all 4 to
catch all the varieties of Pokemon. Once you've tamed or trained your
Pokemon, they can fight for you against other Pokemon. I believe you can
also link Gameboys with other players and have your Pokemon go up against
theirs. (So it's *kinda* social. ???) Different Pokemon have different
special skills and strengths; hence the passion for "collecting" them all.
I'm afraid that the real life comparison that came to mind for me
was cockfighting . . . but I don't mean to imply that the level of
violence is the same. (For one thing, there are no real "live" animals
to get hurt.) Generally my impression of the "ambience" of the game
is that it's more cute and whimsical than violent, but you'll have to
decide whether the overall premise is too violent for you. It seems
to me that your child might be able to collect cards or pictures of
Pokemon (rather cute Japanese-style drawings) and still remain
somewhat innocent to the violent premise of the game -- but maybe
I'm naive to think that. (I'm also probably not terribly opposed to
Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles either -- though I wouldn't
deliberately expose my child to these or foster an interest, I don't
think I would try to prevent it. Not that this issue has really come up
yet for my 2-year-old son.) Anyway I hope this information will help you
decide whether you'll want to allow or try to prevent your child's further
pursuit of Pokemon.
These are characters in a game that is a cartoon, Gameboy game, and
has trading cards and figures representing the characters. My stepson
(11) has it, and my nephew (5) of a very careful sister in law has it too.
It runs the range of ages. The game involves searching through a forest for
the characters or trying to "win" them in gyms. Each character has
different "powers", all somewhat violent, but some as simple as the ability
to make another character fall asleep. The object is to either collect them
in the forest by throwing a Pokeball into the bushes, or to put your best
character you've already collected against another one in one of the "gyms"
in a battle. There is definitely fighting, but all pretty low level. The
player must be aware of each character's powers and be strategic to a
certain extent to work the game. A 4 year old may be a little young to
understand the concepts of the Gameboy game, but the cards and figures I'm
sure would be facinating. The challenge with my stepson is keeping him from
playing the gameboy game all of his waking hours. And he now has a
significant collection of the cards and figures which can be challenging to
come by, and expensive of course. Good luck!
I too have a four-year old son who has gotten *very* into Pokemon,
having been introduced to the them at daycare. I have mixed feelings about
it. I'd rather that he not have been exposed at all, but now that it's
there, I'm not going to forbid it. I've decided that as a parent it would be
better to give him the tools to evaluate what's out there in our
culture than to ban it outright or try to shield him entirely from it. [We
don't allow toy guns in the house, but I don't do anything about his
imaginative play and I do give him information about guns. When he is old
enough we may take him to a shooting range and teach him gun safety.] I don't
think I'd let him play the pokemon videogame, but the cards, figurines and
books are fine. He treats the Pokemon Handbook as an encyclopedia and
"learns" a little bit about nature by discussing each creatures "gimmick"
with me (fire, water, smell, etc)- so I guess there's a positive side. He's
also been walking around singing the theme song and pretends he's a
different Pokemon every day, so I suppose his imagination isn't suffering.
The show is kind of a cross between a "sport" and animal training.
Yes, cockfighting comes to mind as well as do wrestling and some of the
martial arts. The most often used word in the show is "attack" but none
of the creatures ever gets injured. How can you teach your child that
electricity is dangerous when they see this adorable little animal shoot
bolts of lightning at another one that just goes "ahhh" but is unhurt (how
many times does the road-runner "die" per episode?). There are three
"heroes" in the show, but I'm not crazy about the character of the older
boy who is constantly acting like a male dog around a female in heat. Girls
on the show are always evaluated by beauty (though the bad-guy team are
good-looking "popular-kid" thieves with a questionable "motto").
About pokemon. The thing I don't like about it is the "gotta catch 'em
all" slogan and premise. Basically the kids are constantly trying to get
more-cards, games etc. It seems to feed into a feeling of greed and
competition that is rampant in our society. I remember that feeling of
anxiety when you don't have the cool thing that everyone else has but
with this game that feeling is a permanent feature since "getting em
all" is basically impossible. ( my son at 3 is too young thank god, but
I'm a teacher and have seen the pokemon fever sweep through the school).
How do we redirect? When my student wanted to make a pokemon mask I told
him he ahd to invent his own and he did come up with a very creative
version. It's a real challenge!
On the subject of Pokemon. My husband and I inadvertently got our 5yo
son started on Pokemon. We saw a trailer for a video on another Japanese
animation film. We don't have cable and didn't initially know about the
tv cartoon. The first video was about a boy coming of age (10 or 11) and
being eligible to begin his Pokemon training. The stories have a lot of
lessons to teach that are applicable to most children.
As we got more involved with Pokemon we appreciated the fact that the
main character is constantly battling with his desire (ego) to achieve
"trainer" status and the condition that the little pokemon characters MUST BE
respected. There are some very Zen undertones to the lessons. Gender
is not an issue because both girls and boys can be trainers -- (the girl
constantly following the main character around is already an
accomplished trainer-to-be herself) -- and some of the pokemon themselves
evolve into different genders. There is no foul language (depending on how
you feel about the selfish impatient characters being called jerks or stupid)
and even the so-called bad guy/girl team seem to have a soft spot. The
"violence" consists of battles between pokemon that end when the pokemon
is exhausted, (which are fought by special attributes that the different
pokemon possess, NOT with weapons), it is a BIG NO-NO to push the
pokemon beyond exhaustion and there are pokemon centers (hospitals) where the
pokemon can get rejuvenated. There are a few goofy characters which
seems at times to stereotype certain personalities (valley girls and surfer
dudes) but they are relatively harmless portrayals.
My son also has a couple of sets of cards but understands the trading
issues about as well as he understands money. I imagine if a parent spent
money on the more expensive collector cards the trading issue could become
quite a problem but I feel this falls under the category of parent monitoring.
The gameboy games require a good reading knowledge but can be entertaining
if someone familiar with the game (and able to read) helps to set it up.
Bottom line -- true, it's a marvelous marketing campaign, but there's a
heck of a lot more trashy and violent stuff in popular culture/media for
little kids to be "entertained" by. Incidentally, I am personally quite
attached to "Pikachu" the electric rat. (Pikachu is the first pokemon
obtained by Ash, the main character.)
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are those of parents who belong to the
UC Berkeley Parents Network and
should not be taken as a position of or endorsement by the
University of California, Berkeley.