Spongebob Squarepants Might Have Made You A Little Dumb

The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.

The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch “SpongeBob,” or the slower-paced PBS cartoon “Caillou” or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched “SpongeBob” did measurably worse than the others.

Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure – results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.

Kids’ cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program “could be more detrimental,” the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.

The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study’s small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. “What kids watch matters, it’s not just how much they watch,” he said.

University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.

She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn,” she said.

Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler disputed the findings and said “SpongeBob SquarePants” is aimed at kids aged 6-11, not 4-year-olds.


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Categories: Entertainment


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8 Comments on “Spongebob Squarepants Might Have Made You A Little Dumb”

  1. Sergei Dahlman
    May 1, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Spongebob Squarepants and Caillou have absolutely nothing in common. Did they even take that into consideration? I hope these wern’t the only constants in the experiment.

    • Kblair
      May 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      That’s the point… they weren’t supposed to have anything in common. They were stating that Caillou is slower paced and children that watched it did better in the test afterwards then those that watched Spongebob.

    • kate
      May 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      They were supposed to be different, they were two different experimental groups

  2. sydney
    May 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    And i love spongebob

  3. megan
    October 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    This study lacks eco-logical validity and unless investigated further cannot be taken seriously.

  4. Tiff
    October 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Needs more diverse test group with varying socio-economic backgrounds to conclude the result that applies to a really general, and extremely large, group of people (kids).

  5. Devo
    January 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Dem kids just stupid already homie

    • me
      January 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

      you must have watched alot of sponge bob

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