Did you check the local news today? If so, you know people are all aflutter over a new study that finds “SpongeBob Square Pants” is bad for four-year-olds. In the words of SpongeBob, “Well, duh.”
(You may be familiar with our on this pineapple-dwelling sea sponge and his effects on kids.)
While previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, the new study suggests watching just nine minutes of “SpongeBob” can cause short-term attention and learning problems in four-year-olds.
University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard was the lead author on the study, in which 60 children were divided into three groups. Some watched "SpongeBob" while others watched the PBS cartoon "Caillou." The third group drew pictures. After nine minutes, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched "SpongeBob" did measurably worse than the others.
The study revealed that watching “SpongeBob” actually destroys cells deep inside the brain stem in an area called the medulla oblongata. Victims need to replace the ruined cells, and roam the land as twitching zombies hungry for brains, brains, brains! OK, not really.
Fussing about this study is sort of like complaining an “R” movie isn’t suitable for thirteen-year-olds. Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a child development specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital, wrote an editorial accompanying the study that stated parents need to realize fast-paced programming may be inappropriate for very young children. Again, duh.
The other program in the study, the slow paced “Caillou” (and by "slowed-paced" I mean “tear-your-eyeballs-out-slow”) is specifically designed for pre-schoolers.
“SpongeBob” is aimed squarely at the seven to eleven crowd (and college kids). The program carries an "age seven and up” warning label from the network. It is intended as pure entertainment for children old enough to handle the abstract concepts, loud music, over-the-top animation and general idiocy.
There is a big difference between what is suitable for the brains of four-year-olds and the brains of seven-year-olds. Unless the study was designed by drunk undergrads, the study authors know it.
So I’m going to be kind and assume that the study isn’t just a cynical attempt to use “SpongeBob” to garner publicity, stir up some controversy, and maybe shake a tenured UVA professorship loose. I’ll pretend that it is intended to remind parents of what we already know.
Parents should be aware of what their children are watching. They should steer kids toward age-appropriate shows. What our kids watch matters, even if they are only watching a little.
And, yes, parents know that watching “SpongeBob” will turn their kids into brain-eating zombies. The question is- is this all this fuss about a study ridiculous? Well, duh.
What are your thoughts on the new study? Tell us in the comments.