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The BBC's Gillian Hargreaves
reports from a central London toy shop
 real 28k

Margaret Morrissey
calls for restrictions on marketing to children
 real 28k

Monday, 24 April, 2000, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Pokémon upsets heads and parents
boy with cards
Younger children have been attacked for their cards
A head teachers' leader has accused the makers of Pokémon cards of using over-clever marketing to fuel an "obsession" among schoolchildren.

And a parents' representative has called for controls on advertising aimed at children.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the craze had led to fights in schools.

Margaret Morrissey, chair of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, called on the government to stop "this very aggressive television advertising".

They were speaking after it emerged that at the weekend two children in Hull, one aged eight, were robbed at knifepoint of Pokémon cards by two 11-year-olds.

And a 14-year-old boy and his 13-year-old friend were abused by a gang of six boys in Ramsgate, Kent, when the older boy refused to hand over his cards.

Official sales of the fantasy "pocket monster" cards have brought in Ł140m in six months.

The rarer cards are said to have been fetching up to Ł30 each on the playground black market.

Children's passion - and teachers' annoyance - has been further stoked by the release in the UK of the first Pokémon movie 10 days ago.

Pocket money

"Many schools have banned these cards because children have become obsessive about them, and because the schools regard that obsessiveness as undesirable," Mr Hart told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

The cards were priced "so that they are just outside the sort of money which a child might get for pocket money and that's leading children to fighting each other for them and these extreme incidents such as knifing and stabbing of young children," he claimed.

"I think the people who are marketing them ought to think very carefully about whether their marketing is so clever that it's become undesirable in its consequences.

"And what's happening is the people who are marketing them are holding back certain cards so they become rarer and rarer and in order to get the whole cards in the set - I gather 151 cards make up the set - children appear to be willing to do all sorts of things in order to get hold of them.

"I actually think that they are acting irresponsibly in terms of their marketing. I think the manufacturers are trading on the children's obsession."

Call for a clampdown

Wizards of the Coast, which makes the cards, has previously defended the educational potential of the game in which the cards are used.

Its website's guide for parents says: "Children often trade Pokémon cards with each other to complete their collections or to get cards they need for their decks.

"You can help your child make good trades if you learn about the different rarities of cards ... You can also have fun playing Pokémon with your child ...."

But Margaret Morrissey, chair of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, the largest organisation of home-school associations in England and Wales, called for government controls on marketing aimed at children.

"One of the main things is to stop this very aggressive television advertising," she said on BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

"I have commented over this weekend, sitting here with a two-year-old granddaughter, that for three, four days we have had continual cartoons and adverts that have persuaded children that they must have this and they do need that.

"I just think that our children are being targeted more and more - even almost before they are born now."

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See also:

14 Apr 00 | Education
Schools ban Pokémon cards
02 Mar 00 | Education
School pays for lost Pokémon cards
28 Dec 99 | Americas
Burger King in Pokemon recall
15 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Pokemon zaps US cinemas
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