Picking on Spongebob

A new study published by “Pediatrics” suggest that SpongeBob SquarePants may be bad for kids’ brains. Preschoolers who watch fast-paced shows like Spongebob have more trouble concentrating than other children. Researchers assigned 4 year olds to watch Spongebob or the slower-paced educational cartoon Caillou for nine minutes, or to draw freely with markers. Immediately after, the kids took mental function tests to see how well they solved problems, followed rules, and remembered what they were told, for example. SpongeBob viewers performed significantly worse than their peers. Only 15 percent passed the problem-solving task, for example, compared with 35 percent of Caillou viewers and 70 percent of those who spent time drawing. Fast-paced shows revolving around unrealistic events are likely detrimental because they overstimulate the brain, making it harder to maintain focus, plan, organize, and control inappropriate behaviors, the researchers speculate. "We don’t know how long this effect lasts," study author Angeline Lillard, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, told Bloomberg. "It may be that children recover quickly. Certainly, immediately after, there was a strong impact particularly on the most challenging tasks."

Nickelodeon disputed the study, saying the cartoon is geared towards 6 to 11 year old viewers.  The researchers did not test the children prior to the study, although they claim none of the children were diagnosed with attention problems. 

The message they are trying to make parents aware of is that viewing of content matters.  Watching television in the car on the way to school is probably not a good way to get them prepared for the day.

It seems logical that television viewing of any kind should be limited to small children.  The television has become a babysitter to a lot of parents, but as people become more aware of the adverse effects, this will change. 

Researchers should leave Spongebob alone.  Parents should limit all TV viewing, no matter what cartoon.

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