SpongeBob Impairs Children’s Thinking? Think Again.

SpongeBob SquarePantsThe L.A. Times has some very interesting things to say about the show “SpongeBob Squarepants impairing little kids’ thinking.”

Amongst some of the points the Times article hits on is this: “Connecting fast-paced television viewing to deficits in executive function … has profound impacts for children’s cognitive and social development that need to be considered and reacted to.”

So fast-paced cable TV affects the ability of children to focus and think about specific tasks? This is according to a 2011 study by Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, both of the University of Virginia’s department of psychology.

During their study, the researchers took a group of 60 children, each four years old, and separated them into three distinct groups: the first group watched nine minutes of the popular, fast-paced Nickelodeon TV show “SpongeBob SquarePants”, the second group watched nine minutes of a slower-paced television show, and the last group got to draw with crayons and pencils for nine minutes.

Once their nine minutes were up the children were asked to perform a series of thinking tests. Reportedly the children who were exposed to nine minutes of SpongeBob “scored significantly worse than the other kids.”

This report can be worrisome for parents, or for those of us who grew up watching SpongeBob on TV.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

SpongeBobNickelodeon studios got wind of the report and concluded (in a very agreeable statement) that “having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show’s targeted demo, watch 9 minutes of programming is questionable methodology. It could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust.” And that’s just the start of where this “study” starts to fall apart.

To take any child from a fun activity (like watching nine minutes of a very quirky show such as “SpongeBob”) and then have them do something like a test, you’re going to see noticeable differences in their ability to perform well compared to children who were already sitting at a table and writing or drawing.

There are arguable bad things that can come from watching television, but for such arguments to be made there needs to be more conclusive testing, not simply putting a handful of children in a room and performing such a skewed study.

What do you think?

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