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Is 'SpongeBob Squarepants' bad for your children?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
9/12/2011 (5 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

'Very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea' found to have negative effect on children's concentration

Is "SpongeBob Squarepants," a "very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea," as described by researchers, bad for your children? The fast-paced cartoon series has been known to grate on the nerves of parents, but now psychologists now say that the cartoon appears to dampen preschoolers brain power.

'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,'  researchers said about 'SpongeBob Squarepants.'

"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," researchers said about "SpongeBob Squarepants."

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
9/12/2011 (5 years ago)

Published in TV

Keywords: SpongeBob Squarepants, concentration skills, children, cartoon


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Both Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, both of the University of Virginia's department of psychology, conducted a series of tests to see if the cartoon had a detrimental effect on children's attention, working memory, problem solving and delay of gratification -- skills that are important with success in school.

While television's negative effect on executive function over the long term has been established - in particular shows that are hyper-edited, extremely fast-paced and are loud -- less is known about its immediate effects.

In the study, Lillard and Peterson assigned 60 4-year-olds to three groups: one that watched nine minutes of "SpongeBob;" one that watched nine minutes of slower-paced programming from a PBS show "about a typical U.S. preschool-aged boy;" and a third group that was told to draw for nine minutes with markers and crayons.

After their viewing and drawing tasks were complete, the children were asked to perform four tests to assess executive function. 

The kids who watched nine minutes of the frenetic high jinks of the "animated sponge" scored significantly worse than the other kids.

"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," University of Washington pediatrics professor Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis wrote.

There are dissenting voices to the study. Nickelodeon, 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."

Nickelodeon also noted that "SpongeBob" is intended to be viewed by kids ages 6 to 11 -- and not by preschoolers.

It wasn't the first time the SpongeBob character has prompted controversy. The cartoon had previously been accused of promoting homosexuality, as the series was popular with the gay community due to "secret coding." As one gay fan declared about SpongeBob, "he's not very masculine for a male character. And he's soft."

Of course, many others think the very stereotyped effort to identify SpongeBob as gay is absurd.

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