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Title: Experts reveal: Pokemon Mania is actually good for your kids

Source: Woman's World, 12/7/99

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Woman's World 12/7/99

Experts reveal: Pokemon Mania is actually good for your kids

Kids across America are begging for anything Pokemon this Christmas. Yet some schools have banned it. And they've even been targeted by lawsuits alleging they encourage gambling! So what's a parent to do? Stop worrying! say the experts. According to child psychologists, those strange little creatures can actually teach your children some valuable life lessons.

With Christmas approaching, Beth Werner is worried. Her daughter Lori, eight, has made it clear what she's hoping to find under the tree: Pokemon trading cards.

"She carries the 42 she already has everywhere," says the Tampa secretary. "I'm concerned that if we give her more, it'll turn into an obsession!"

She's not alone. Ever since this Japanese game - featuring 151 "pocket monsters" that children do battle with - hit America last year, parents have been trying to figure out whether it's bad for kids. 

"Relax," says Robert Thompson, Ph.D., of the International Pop Culture Association. "Pokemon are cute creatures endowed with special powers, including the power to teach valuable skills." In fact, the Pokemon cards won the National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval for being a game that involves strategy and creative thinking." Read on to find out:

The life skills Pokemon can teach your child

1 The importance of rules

To be a Pokemon master, "kids have to guide their monsters to follow rules," says Michael Jellinek, M.D., chief of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It's a rehearsal for life; if you follow the rules you're rewarded." You can reinforce this lesson by reading the rulebook with your child. "You'll be surprised to find it tells kids they should study and respect authority," says Topeka mom Kathy Knox. And going over the rules is the perfect time to remind your child of the rules he's expected to follow in school and at home.

2 The power of cooperation. 

"The game is so complex, you have to talk to other kids about it to figure it out," explains Thompson. "And anything that has kids talking together is good," notes learning expert Natalie M. Elman.

In fact, says social worker Terry McDowell, Ph.D., "when kids learn to work out solutions together, they learn cooperation" - and that's a valuable skill.

And don't worry that the game is too violent. While battle is a central theme, it's never gory, say experts. When a Pokemon loses a fight, it faints, rather than dies - and it must go to a spa to be rejuvenated!

3 How to strategize. 

Unlike some popular toys with little or no educational value, "Pokemon requires chess-like concentration and the ability to think ahead in sophisticated ways," says Dr. Jellinek. And it helps children's brains develop, but they don't know they're reaping benefits from it, they just enjoy it.

4 Reaching Goals. 

In Pokemon, the pocket monsters encounter the same obstacles over and over until they overcome them. "To be successful, you can't just try once and give up," says child psychologist David Walsh Ph.D., of the National Institute on Media and the Family. "You have to persevere." It's actually helped many children discover that they're more adept at getting past frustration than they or their parents ever dreamed of. 

"Your child will get a boost in self-esteem, which will help him gain confidence in his abilities," says family counselor Mitchell Rosen, M.A.

5 The value of money.

Pokemon cards are a sophisticated form of currency. "Children manage their collections by studying the market and setting their own prices for trades," reveals marketing professor Michael Kamins, Ph.D. To a child, a rare card is the same kind of thing as a very desirable piece of jewelry for an adult.

She must decide how much she's willing to spend - how many other cards she's willing to trade - to get it. It's a lesson in economics. And to help your child learn that lesson, don't buy in to the "gotta catch 'em all" craze, advises Walsh. Leave some cards that your child wants in the store so he can save up for them, he says: 'It's 
an opportunity to teach patience."

Anne Norman


And don't forget the other fad that's good for kids...

Harry Potter books! For weeks, these tales by J.K. Rowling about a young wizard-in-training have been topping bestseller lists - and with good reason.   They're so imaginative, adults love them too. "And that provides an opportunity for reading them together," says psychologist Cathleen Rea, Ph.D. And talking about why good is more powerful than evil, which is a value all want to instill in our kids.


A parent's guid to the hottest Pokemon

These are currently the most sought-after characters, reveals Dondi Clemons of the New York City collectibles shop Forbidden Planet:

1. Charizard
2. Raichu
3. Zapdos
4. Blastoise
5. Clefairy
6. Kangaskhan
7. Flareon
8. Jigglypuff

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