Bad news for everyone’s favourite resident of a pineapple under the sea. A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that fast-paced TV shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants could lead to learning and behavioural difficulties in young children.
Researchers from the University of Virginia studied a group of 60 4-year-old kids to find out whether fast-paced television shows have a significant impact on a child’s ability to concentrate and follow directions.
According to a news release from the University of Virginia:
[University of Virginia] psychologists tested 4-year-old children immediately after they had watched nine minutes of the popular show SpongeBob SquarePants and found that their executive function—the ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior—had been severely compromised when compared to 4-year-olds who had either watched nine minutes of Caillou , a slower-paced, realistic public television show, or had spent nine minutes drawing.
“It is possible that the fast pacing, where characters are constantly in motion from one thing to the next, and extreme fantasy, where the characters do things that make no sense in the real world, may disrupt the child’s ability to concentrate immediately afterward,” said study author Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor in the University of Virginia College of Arts and Sciences, according to the news release. “Another possibility is that children identify with unfocused and frenetic characters, and then adopt their characteristics.”
However, David Bittler, a spokesperson for Nickelodeon (the network that produces SpongeBob) is criticizing the study, saying, “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,” according to an interview with The Associated Press.
What are the TV rules in your house? Are young kids allowed to watch? Will this study change your family’s TV-watching habits?