U.S. Kids Safe From Cartoon Seizures??
By Jefferson Graham and Tim Friend
Parents need not worry: American children aren't likely to suffer seizures provoked by TV cartoons.
More than 700 children in Japan were hospitalized for convulsions and nausea Tuesday and Wednesday after watching Pokemon, a cartoon based on Nintendo's Pocket Monsters video game. The scene that triggered the attacks showed an explosion and a character with flashing, strobelike eyes.
But that fast-paced style of animation is rarely seen on TV in the USA. (Well, readers, that was in 1997. Twenty years later, we DO see that fast-paced style of animation, now, don't we?)
CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB don't air the graphic Japanese cartoons known as "anime." Nor do the major cable outlets for cartoons: Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. (This is now 2017 - they probably DO!)
Where you will find anime is in video stores, where anime sections are stocked with imports of Japanese cartoons.
"Japan animation is so different from what airs here," says Mike Lazzo, vice president of programming for the Cartoon Network. "It's far edgier, adult and violent. Anime isn't very story-based and is driven by intense moments. The story is hard to follow."
The Cartoon Network does air Japan's Speed Racer, made 30 years ago, and Voltron, about 10 years old, but neither show is in the style of anime.
Japanese children who suffered seizures probably have an undiagnosed light-sensitive form of epilepsy, experts say.
No one knows how many children in the USA would be at risk if exposed to similar images. But 1% of the general population has some form of epilepsy, and 5% to 10% of those people are at risk for seizures when exposed to flashes of light, says neurologist William Theodore of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, Md.
Theodore says the number of people having light-induced seizures has risen since the invention of television, disco balls and video games. And as TV screens become bigger and brighter and more children have access to video games, the chances of seizures occurring in undiagnosed light-sensitive children increases.
Some have reported suffering epilepsy-type seizures while playing Nintendo games. The company added a warning to its games in 1993.
The Pocket Monsters game for Nintendo's Game Boy, on which the Japanese program is based, is slated to be introduced in the USA next fall. (Note from Og - that would mean 1998.)