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ABC News: Watching SpongeBob SquarePants hurts pre-schoolers’ development

Watching highly paced cartoons such as SpongeBob SquarePants hinders pre-schoolers’ abstract thinking, short-term memory and impulse control, according to the University of Virginia.

“He may be one of the longest-running, best-loved cartoons in Nickelodeon history,” writes Courtney Hutchison for ABC News, “but SpongeBob SquarePants is getting no love from child psychologists.”

According to research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, watching such fast-paced cartoons, even for just a few minutes, is detrimental, reports Hutchison:

Led by University of Virginia psychologist Angeline Lillard, researchers randomly assigned 60 four-year-olds to three activities: drawing freely with markers for nine minutes; watching a slower-paced, PBS cartoon for that time; or watching SpongeBob SquarePants. Researchers chose SpongeBob for its frenetic pace: The show switches scenes on average every 11 seconds, as compared with the PBS cartoon, which switched only twice a minute.


Afterward the preschoolers were asked to do four different “executive function” tasks that test cognitive capability and impulse control, such as counting backwards, solving puzzles, and delaying gratification by waiting to eat a tasty snack until told to do so. Compared with those who were drawing and those watching PBS, the SpongeBob kids performed significantly worse on the tasks.

Study authors note that it’s hard to say what it was about the adventures of this friendly kitchen sponge that seemed to have such an immediate negative effect on kids, but they suspected it was the fantastical events and rapid pacing of the show. By contrast, the PBS show was slower and exhibited real life events about a preschool-age boy.


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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Amy

    I knew I didn’t like this cartoon!! Now I can tell my hubby why I don’t want our son watching it!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Enrique

    Well a lot of people can differ about how this show is bad. But it was mainly created for entertainment purposes, unlike PBS. My nephew watches the show and he’s actually okay after watching it. He remains unaffected and has a normal thought process. Though, I believe it really depends on the individual child watching it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nikki Ward

    There is nothing wrong with Sponge Bob it’s a TV show meant for entertainment not education. If you want educations taught to your child it requires you not the TV. I’m all for Sponge Bob, I myself like it along with my younger siblings. Come to think of it Sponge Bob is this decades Loony Toons. (loony toons being the best show ever!) If you have problems with it don’t watch it.

  • daliya robson

    watching 70% of tv makes all of us dumb .The level of idiocy in usa is amazing I have never met so many undeduated people in any country and I have lived in 5. We should ban the tv stations and radio that spurn out junk .

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