Can Watching ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ Lead To Learning Disorders?



Does watching SpongeBob affect a child's ability to learn? A recent study says Yes, it can. (Photo Copyright Nickelodeon)

I am about to report something that most parents probably already know about and that is that watching the kids cartoon ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ is not good for children. If you have ever seen an episode of SpongeBob you will know what I mean when I say it has absolutely no value to younger kids (or older forĀ  that matter) and now studies show that watching the show can actually create short term attention and learning issues in 4-year olds.

A recent study was done to test the theory that younger children can develop learning and attention deficit related problems by watching too much television or certain fast paced cartoons. What came out of the study was not only another confirmation that this is probably true but also that certain programs, shows and cartoons are probably worse than others.

This particular study comprised 60 random children who were divided up and each group was assigned to watch 9-minutes of either SpongeBob Squarepants, the PBS cartoon ‘Caillou’ (a much slower paced children’s cartoon) or were allowed to draw and color pictures. After the 9-minutes were up, the children were evaluated with a mental function test and needless to say the children who watched 9-minutes of SpongeBob prior to their exam did much worse than the other children in the study.

Now, this is not to say that all cartoons are bad and that you should immediately ban your kids from watching any and all cartoons. Let’s face it, many parents in their 30’s and 40’s grew up watching cartoons, albeit less violent than today’s breed of animation. The issue is the type of cartoon or show parents allow children to watch as well as the length of time the child is sitting in front of the television on a daily basis.

The study above included a very brief 9-minute snippet of SpongeBob and it clearly showed those specific children to have issues with a mental function test when it was complete. Now try thinking of your child watching a common 30-minute episode or God forbid a Saturday morning marathon comprised of 10-15 episodes! Although the test was short and the number of children included in the test was small, there is still evidence of a direct correlation between the type of programs our kids watch and how it affects their brains. It is something all parents should be concerned about.

So what does Nickelodeon have to say about one of their biggest franchises in SpongeBob? Spokesman David Bittler indicated that the study was aimed at younger children than the target audience of SpongeBob. Bittler said SpongeBob is aimed at children in the 6-11 age group and that the study may be biased since it involved much younger children. Although this may be true, the study does say volumes about the affect of a fast paced nonsensical cartoon on a younger child. And to say that children under Nickelodeon’s target age group do not watch the program is probably inaccurate in today’s day and age when there is a television in every room in the house.

Is Nickelodeon at fault for brainwashing our children and affecting their learning? I would venture to say most would say no. But it is up to parents to dictate what their children watch on television and anyone who has seen SpongeBob would probably agree that it is not fit for the 3-5 age group. I would even go so far as to say it doesn’t offer any value whatsoever for children up to 12-years of age as you could argue that much of the content is simply not appropriate.

Parents need keep an eye on what their children watch on television and do not be afraid to watch an episode with them to see if it is appropriate. It is the only way they can be 100% assured their children are watching television shows appropriate for their age.

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