Today I’m pleased to introduce Australian parent, writer and book reviewer, Aleesah Darlison, to The Book Chook. Aleesah is visiting as part of her blog tour for her series, Totally Twins. Yesterday, Aleesah was at More Than Words. The next stop on Aleesah’s blog tour is Book Blog, hosted by Dave Hibbins, where she’ll be stopping with Persephone, the main character in the Totally Twins series, for an interview.
What’s The Go With Pokemon?
When your seven-year-old comes to you and says, ‘Mum, I’d give my life for five minutes playing Pokemon,’ you know you’ve got a problem.
I know he doesn’t really mean it. I know he doesn’t really understand what he’s saying. Still, it is rather frightening. And while his sentiments may be a little skewed on the dramatic side, his obsession with the game certainly isn’t. For him, the obsession is real and all-consuming.
As a children’s author and book lover, I’ve tried to imbibe a love of books in my children from birth. In their short lives, I’ve read to all three of them for countless hours. We have hundreds of books throughout our house: in each child’s bedroom, in our lounge/library room, in my study. Books are scattered from one end of the house to the other. I love this. I believe in this obsession. I nurture it because I think books light the world, that books enlighten the world. Reading frees us, teaches us, inspires us, allows us to dream. But what can Pokemon, an electronic game teach us?
I’m still trying to figure it out.
The platform my son, Blake, plays Pokemon on is a DSi XL. Lots of kids have them. They’re the latest game craze going around. My husband and I held off for quite some time from buying Blake a DSi. However, after many months of pressure and pleading, we gave in and bought him one for his seventh birthday. When everyone else has one, how could it be wrong?
Prior to taking possession of his DSi, Blake had been a bright, inquisitive boy who would spend hours upon hours building complex Lego creations and pouring over Lego catalogues. He would read and research all he could about dinosaurs, the universe, natural disasters, animals, bridges, rocks and minerals. He was, and still is, a gifted child. Reading came easy to him. He had a thirst for knowledge, a curiosity in the world around him that was awe-inspiring.
The DSi and Pokemon abolished all that. He gave up all his other activities and wanted only to play Pokemon. All the time. Our well-rounded son with his amazing capacity for soaking up, retaining then regurgitating information was lost. All he could soak up, retain and regurgitate was the world of Pokemon. Interesting to his seven-year-old counterparts, perhaps, but how did it prepare him for adulthood and the outside world?
Blake is not the only child to act like this. Our school is in the grip of Pokemon fever. Whenever I give my son and his friends a lift to some after-school activity, or he has friends over for a play date, the conversation is firmly focused on Pokemon. Who beat who in the latest battle. What ‘level’ they’re on. What Pokemon character has ‘evolved’. There’s a huge cast of Pokemon characters (493 in total) and the game possesses its own intricate, detailed jargon. Kids are fascinated and enthralled by it and I’m left to wonder what’s the go with Pokemon? What do kids find so irresistible about it?
I know there are trading cards that kids collect and use to play in international tournaments. There are websites, games to download, chapters books, Pokemon Ultimate Handbooks (Blake has one and it is well-thumbed and dog-eared). And of course, there are the original Pokemon TV shows and movies. There is a vast world of Pokemon created in great detail that kids just adore. I can’t begin to understand this world. Only a die-hard fan would want to, so I will bow out now and show my age. Pokemon is for the young, it’s a huge wave of technology that is being surfed by our kids. But is it healthy? Is it a fad they will grow out of? Or are we dealing with something dangerous here? The grip Pokemon has on my son doesn’t seem to be letting up just yet so I guess only time will tell.
Needless to say, we have now heavily restricted Blake’s use of his DSi and Pokemon. We have educated him on daily screen-time limits. I know other parents who have had to do the same thing with their children. Two hours on a Saturday is what we’ve shut Pokemon down to. It’s been extremely hard for Blake, being forced to give up something he loves so much. It’s been hard for us, too, to put up with the nagging and begging, to put up with the desperate pleas to play Pokemon. And the dramatic declarations of ‘my life for Pokemon’.
Still, I know we’re doing the right thing by weaning him off the mind-zapping, electronic game side of his addiction. Despite his misery and grief for the loss of the game, his interest in the world around him has rekindled. Pokemon is there at the back of his mind for most of the day, but if he’s kept busy he manages okay. And I’m hoping it will get better.
As well, I’ve tried to salvage something out of this obsession. I try to encourage Blake to play trading card games with his friends and read his Pokemon books to enjoy the Pokemon world that way. Reading about Pokemon isn’t so bad. There is literary merit - and literacy merit - in every book. It’s just the hours and hours on end of staring at a screen and the fear that my son’s brain is turning to mush that I can’t abide.
Aleesah Darlison writes picture books and novels for children. She also reviews books for The Sun Herald. Aleesah has won many awards for her writing including an ASA mentorship with Kate Forsyth in 2009. Her stories have appeared in the black dog books Short and Scary Anthology, The School Magazine and Little Ears. Her first picture book, Puggle’s Problem, was released in July. Her junior series for girls aged 9 plus, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released this month. The series follows the adventures of identical twins, Persephone (she’s the sensible one) and Portia (she’s the messy one) Pinchgut and is written in diary format by Persephone.
To find out more about Aleesah, visit her website.Or check out her tour schedule and follow her on the tour!
Thanks so much for sharing your dilemma and solution with us, Aleesah. There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal recently which drew the same conclusions. Parenting is such a balancing act, isn't it?