The popular kids TV show, “Spongebob Squarepants”, has been shown to impair the brainpower of young kids, according to a new study.
While Spongebob and the rest of the crew may give parents headaches, kids seem to be a bit more affected by zoning in on the cartoons’ adventures. Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, both from the University of Virginia’s department of psychology, found that watching fast-paced television had an immediate negative influence on kids’ attention, working memoery, problem solving, and delay of gratification.
While the long-term negative effects stemming from TV are more known, the short term effects are still a mystery. To set out to solve the mystery, Lillard and Peterson randomly assigned 60 4-year-olds to 3 different groups. One group watched 9 minutes of fast-paced Spongebob, with scene changes occurring approximately ever 11 seconds. Another group watched 9 minutes of a slower-paced PBS program about a “typical US preschool-aged boy”, with scene changes occurring approximately ever 34 seconds. The last group was asked to draw with markers and crayons for 9 minutes.
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After the 9 minute tasks were completed, each group was tested to assess executive function. While group 2 and 3 had very similar scores, the Spongebob group scored significantly lower.
While the findings leave some experts turning off the fast-paced programs for their young children, other sources disagree with the way the study was conducted. Nickelodeon, which is the network that airs “Spongebob Squarepants”, told CNN that “having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show’s targeted demo, watch 9 minutes of programming is questionable methodology. It could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust.” They also note that the program is intended for kids ages 6 to 11, not preschoolers.