Is SpongeBob Bad for the Brain?
More bad news for parents of young children looking for the occasional break. It turns out that even brief exposure to SpongeBob SquarePants, a frenetic and wildly popular Nickelodeon cartoon about a sea sponge and his friends, impairs pre-schoolers’ brain power.
The LA Times wrote that Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson of the University of Virginia’s department of psychology tested 60 four-year-olds to see if nine minutes of SpongeBob affected skills associated with performing well in school, such as paying attention, remembering things, solving problems and delaying gratification.
The children were randomly assigned to three groups; one to watch the cartoon, another to watch a slower-paced PBS show for kids, and a third to draw with markers and crayons. Afterwards, the kids were tested for negative immediate effects.
The kids watching the Nickelodeon show scored significantly lower than the other kids, according to the researchers.
“Connecting fast-paced television viewing to deficits in executive function … has profound impacts for children’s cognitive and social development that need to be considered and reacted to,” wrote University of Washington pediatrics professor Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, an expert on children and media, in an editorial with the study, according to the Time story.
Nickelodeon responded that the show was aimed at children 6-11.
Until reading about this study, I’d never actually watched the show. Nor had my daughter – not to say she hasn’t watched plenty of other programs that are probably bad for her. I immediately watched some episodes online.
Here’s my conclusion: there are lots of reasons not to expose your kid to this show — diminished brain power aside. Do you really want your sponge-like pre-schooler parroting these irritating characters? Just watching the show long enough to form an opinion about it gave me a headache.
And then there’s the lack of humor. My husband lets our not-even-three-year-old watch the Simpsons. I’m not wild about this, and have switched it off when it gets violent. But at least Bart and his family and friends are funny.
This mom says “yes” to occasional TV, but “no” to TV that’s annoying. That seems as good a guide as any university study.
Image by Daimen Richards.
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