Saturday, March 24, 2012

SpongeBob Bad?

Not my favorite "quality" show but it's still on at my house.  I have to 
remind myself I watched hours of He-Man and She-Ra 
and turned out mostly normal.  :)

Is SpongeBob SquarePants Bad for Children?

Researchers report that 4-year-olds who had just watched the fast-paced fantasy cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” — which follows the undersea adventures of a yellow sponge — did worse on tests of attention and problem-solving than young children who watched a slower-paced educational program or spent time drawing.
Officials from Nickelodeon, the network that produces “SpongeBob,” dismissed the significance of the study, saying in a statement that preschool-age children are not the show’s intended audience. “SpongeBob” is designed for 6- to 11-year-olds, according to the network, which questioned the study’s small sample size of white middle- and upper-middle-class children.
The study, which appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal Pediatrics, involved 60 children whose parents reported similar levels of television-watching and attention skills. The children were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one watched nine minutes of the cartoon, another viewed nine minutes of the educational program “Caillou,” and the remaining group spent the time with drawing paper, markers and crayons.
The tests were administered immediately after the children watched the program and were designed to assess what is known as children’s executive function, which underlies attention, working memory, problem-solving and the delay of gratification. The children were given tasks that involved following instructions, reversing the order of numbers and resisting treats.
“The children who watched the cartoon were operating at half the capacity compared to other children,” said Angeline S. Lillard, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and one of the paper’s authors.
She said the effect was not specific to “SpongeBob SquarePants” and has also been demonstrated with other fast-paced cartoons in which “there are lot of things happening that can’t happen in real life — magical things going on in totally new places, the bed catapults you out and you land in a lake wearing an astronaut costume — and happen in fast succession.”
“There is so much stuff that’s hard to assimilate, it might be disrupting the child’s thinking process, so they may not be able to grasp the messages that are educational,” Dr. Lillard said. “This suggests the brain is working very hard to register it all and gets exhausted afterward.”
Asked whether the fatigue might indicate that some kind of learning had occurred while watching “SpongeBob SquarePants,” she said the random and unpredictable nature of the cartoon was more likely to “disrupt the ability to focus rather than strengthen it.”

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