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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.

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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