Posted by Deborah Pujoue on September 28, 2011
A ridiculous new study is claiming that the Nickelodeon cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants may be bad for the attention span of children. This study is suggesting that watching just nine minutes of the show can cause “short-term attention and learning problems in four-year-olds.”
The study was conducted by researchers that took 60 four-year-old, white, upper class/wealthy children and randomly assigned the kids to watch either “SpongeBob” or another kid’s show, “Caillou,” as well as having some of them drawing pictures. After all of the kids spent nine minutes doing their assigned activity, they were all given mental function tests. It turns out that the kids that were watching “SpongeBob” did worse on the tests than the other kids did. Older studies have previously shown that television and attention problems in kids is a real phenomenon. However, I am surprised that they are now connecting a specific show to the problem after the kids had so little exposure to SpongeBob during this study.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, believes that parents should be notified of this before letting their kids watch it.
However, the study’s lead author, Angeline Lillard, said “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out because she found similar problems in kids that watched other shows that were faster-paced. She also believes that parents should monitor when kids watch the shows that they are less affected by it and says, “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn.”
David Bittler, spokesman for Nickelodeon, disagreed with the study results by explaining that the show is geared toward kids that are 6-11 years old and not four-year-olds like those that participated in the study. He also said, “Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show’s targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust.”
Bittler has a point there. But Lillard defended the use of four-year-olds by stating that this age group was picked for the study because it represents “the heart of the period during which you see the most development” when it comes to self-control abilities.
Of course, we can find something wrong with just about any childhood activity if we look hard — or fast — enough.