The latest craze to grip kids the world over is the virtual pet or “Tamagotchi” as it’s known in Japanese.

But the popularity of these electronic animals may have gone too far in the Philippines.

Government officials are considering banning the toys saying their student owners spend too much time looking after their cyberpets.

To most adults it may seem like just another temporary fad, but the latest craze for virtual animals goes one step further than any computer game.

The “Tamagotchi” demands constant attention from its owner and if it doesn’t receive it the consequences can be dire.

The owner must regularly push buttons to feed, and take care of their charge.

And if they don’t the virtual animal can get sick or even worse, “die”.

But the good news for the owner is that the tiny computer generates a new pet almost immediately.

But while it’s a alive a “Tamagotchi” – which means “cute little egg’ in English – craves so much attention that school children in the Philippines have been warned off the toys by their teachers.

The problem has become so widespread that concerns have even been voiced in the country’s parliament.

One Senator, whose grand-daughter is hooked on her virtual pet, is especially worried.

And he soon found out that he wasn’t the only one.

He received calls from many parents complaining that their kids are so busy looking after their pets that they forget about their studies and household chores.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“My granddaughter is only one (of them). But when a barrage of calls from parents saying “do something, it’s ruining their school work, their school schedule”, it was a matter of concern to me.”
SUPER CAPTION: Senator Juan Flavier

The senator was so concerned that he filed a resolution last week in the Senate to study the problem.

Education Secretary Ricardo Gloria has echoed Flavier’s concern by issuing a memo urging parents not to buy the toys which sell for about 5-hundred pesos (18 U-S dollars) each, and telling teachers to discourage children from playing with them.

SOUNDBITE: (English/Tagalog)
“It’s expensive. Secondly it takes too much time. Students will lose concentration
if they bring it to school. At home, this will rob the time from the children to study, prepare homework and help their mom and dad.”
SUPER CAPTION: Ricardo Gloria, Philippines Education Secretary

But eight year-old David Rosario thinks it’s a big fuss over nothing.

He has three “Tamagotchis” and in spite of what the government officials claim, he says
taking care of his pets does not interfere with his studies.

While his teachers have managed to stop students from playing with the gadgets at school, it has not stopped David from taking care of his “pets” at home.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“All I know is I saw my classmate with one so now that the teacher confiscated it this
morning in class, I ain’t bringing it, but I’m still playing with it.”
Q: “Do you forget about studying because you’re taking care of your Tamagotchi?”
A. “One hundred percent no!”
SUPER CAPTION: David Rosario

The toys have already been banned in schools in Hong Kong and Thailand, and the Philippine authorities are now conducting studies to see if they should also impose a ban.

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