SpongeBob Bad for Kids? Well, Duh.

A humorous look at a not-very-shocking new study.

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.

keri September 13, 2011 at 04:07 PM
It sounds crazy that there should be a study to state the obvious but there are many people and fathers out there that don't see this to be harmful. Unfortunatly Spongebob is on many times a day with back to back episodes. So if u can't understand why your child is acting like a maniac and won't calm down take into consideration what they were watching. PG is 'parental guidance' so if u can't supervise what your kid is watching make sure it has no more than a 'G' rating! Consider Spongebob to be pure sugar for the attention span.
Justin Hickey September 13, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Apparently the "researchers" forgot the ' medulla oblongata ' is the part of the brain that controls anger, wouldn't parents want those cells to die. I say WHATEVER! If this is the case all shows cause brain cells to die...
Jerry September 13, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Why single out Sponge Bob? The Simpsons have been poisoning our minds for years at all age levels. With almost every episode we see the incredibly stupid and irresponsible Homer Simpson manning the controls of a local nuclear power plant. The power plant is owned by the greedy and evil Montgomery Burns, whose personal assistant is the flaming gay Smithers. Is it no wonder the American people are terrified of nuclear power despite its obvious benefits with respect to energy independence?
Maria Dorsett Schroeder September 13, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Being a mother of a super-charged, strong-willed already wild (no need for sugar), superhero, Spongebob addicted, almost 4-year-old little boy, I for one needed this recent study as a wake up call reminder, even though I was already getting concerned over this ridiculous cartoon and the way my son will try to imitate the craziness. I already knew that when I myself sit in front of this cartoon with my son, how I felt like it made me more stupid. I've seen it dumb him down, and I've seen the difference when he watches cartoons formatted for preschoolers on Nick Jr. or older Disney movies like Snow White, how he gets smarter, or gets that sweet baby smile on his face. BIG DIFFERENCE from the crazy anctics and non-listening attitude he has after watching Spongebob. Anyway I STILL needed to hear this from someone else and I did NOT know about the network warning label saying this cartoon was for 7+ years. Everybody knows that The Simpsons and Family Guy are adult cartoons, but Spongebob is on lots of toddler marketing products and is all over the cartoon networking many times a day, but I plan on avoiding it better from now on out. When I told my son, that we weren't going to watch so much Spongebob anymore because it was bad for him, he cried. He really loves that stupid cartoon. I asked him why he loved Spongebob, and he said "because it's funny." Well, duh! ;D
Cindy September 13, 2011 at 09:32 PM
I find this study extrmely stupid! Spongebob is ment for entertaiment! Not education so if you want your child learn make them watch Dora or Go Diego go. I watch spongebob and it doesn't make me stupid! Parents are to overly concerned. When I was young I used to watch all kinds of shows bad, good, inappropriate, and educational. I saw rated R movies. I'm older now and I turned out to be a great person, I have good grades, listen to my parents, and I dot get in trouble. My parents were great they didn't worry on the shows I watched instead they made sure they were raising me good. That's just stupid!!!!! Spongebob is the BEST show!!!!!!!!!!!
George September 14, 2011 at 03:36 AM
These people r idiots, spongebob is awesome!!!! There r a bunch of cartoons like this show why pick on Spongebob. Besides I always watched Spongebob and I'm straight A honor student. They just ran out of news
carlos January 15, 2012 at 07:52 AM
I hear the study wasn't that effective. They don't know what would happen AFTER the kids watched the show. Meaning, they don't know if the effects go away after 30 minutes. Like, after seeing a horror movie, you would, as an adult, feel a bit jumpy because of what you witnessed in the movie. Now consider this. Cartoons aren't meant to educate kids. They aren't meant to discipline them for you. Remember, that kids should have fun. (With you of course) Don't try to sweep the show under the rug JUST BECAUSE your toddler will behave better. It's good that you are thinking of his behavior, but also think of "Is he enjoying the shows as well?". Basically, I'm saying that right now, you made a good decision. But once he gets a little older, I feel he should at least see the older spongebob episodes. Why? Because they are very good. Entertainment wise. If I had a choice of spongebob, simpsons, or family guy, I'd choose Spongebob. It's very creative. [Basically, it's too good to miss that, that I feel is an important part of my childhood] Of course toddlers shouldn't see it. : P It is very funny. It's also too bad they advertise spongebob with lots of toddler marketing. I don't have a kid, but I would like to have one in the future. I want to ask, what exactly made you feel more stupid from the show? I never felt that way with Spongebob. ;o Maybe I just love being silly and such.
carlos January 15, 2012 at 07:55 AM
I think you should try to understand the concern from the parents. It's not always good to watch junk all the time. Yeah, Spongebob is an AWESOME show. I LOVE IT. But we are talking about toddlers here. Try to think both ways here. You know, like a street. Either you are just very young... or you are just trolling, like George here.
sam vill March 29, 2012 at 04:48 AM
I totaly agree george. These peple are stupid.
sam vill March 29, 2012 at 04:50 AM
I meen rily why spend all this wasted time complaining about a LEGENDARY tv show?
Gfstcchh February 26, 2013 at 04:35 AM
Not true this isnt true i watched spongebob when i was for im not crazy ... Really.


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