Cartoon May Cause Learning Problems

SpongeBob Square Pants provides your children with more than just crazy characters and a catchy theme song. According to a new study, it may also cause short-term learning and attention problems in your children -- right in your very own living room.

SpongeBob Square Pants

SpongeBob Square Pants, the popular Nickelodeon kids' show that involves a, well, sponge-shaped character and his friends such as Gary the snail, Patrick Star and Sandy, is under fire.

While the show certainly doesn't cause ADD, a new study found that it caused short-term learning and attention problems in children who watched it for just nine minutes. Yes, nine minutes. Average kids' shows are around 22 minutes.

The study looked at 60 four-year-olds who were randomly assigned to three groups: The first watched SpongeBob Square Pants, the second watched Calillou, a much slower-paced show that airs on PBS, and the third drew pictures.

Following the assigned activity, all of the children were given mental function tests. The kids who had watched SpongeBob performed worse than the kids in the other two groups. In fact, they scored twelve fewer points than the Caillou and drawing groups.

Additonally, the children were asked to sit and wait for snacks after the show. The SpongBob group lasted an average of two-and-a-half minutes, while the other two groups made it four minutes.

The study was published in Monday's Journal of Pediatrics. Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia psychology professor and the lead author of the study, noted that it's not SpongeBob that's the problem -- it's faster-paced children's shows in general.

"I wouldn't advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they're expected to pay attention and learn," Lillard said.

According to the Washington Times, a spokesperson for Nickelodeon wasn't exactly pleased. "Having 60 nondiverse 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," he was quoted as saying.

He pointed out that the show's target audience is six- to eleven-year-old children, not four-year-olds.

Tell Us

Do you think that programs such as SpongeBob affect chlidren's learning and attention spans? Or is this study about kids' cartoons much ado about nothing?

Share in the comments section below!

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Comments on "SpongeBob Square Pants: Who has ADD under the sea?"

Stephanie August 21, 2012 | 8:45 PM

I have two children who watch Sponge Bob every evening and they are both working way above their grade level. We call Caillou "Cry You" at our house since he whines so much.

Jeanette May 01, 2012 | 6:33 AM

My children watch Sponge Bob. My Kindergartener is in ALPS (Their version of Gifted and Talented) and my 3rd grader has been a straight A student since the 1st grade. I don't think it is the show but rather placing said child in front of a TV all day. My kids also play soccer, piano and OUTSIDE. (and I don't like Caillou at all... That TV show teaches kids to be whiny, throw fits and act like a baby) While I let them watch Television I also impress the importance of getting outside and playing.

deborah September 22, 2011 | 8:52 AM

My kids don't watch either one. SpongeBob is stupid and Calliou is boring!!!

Marick September 19, 2011 | 10:10 PM

My 10 year old reads at a high school sophomore level and is at the top of her class in every subject. She scored Advanced on the Math and Language Arts STAR tests. She reads an adult book level every night and finishes it in about 2 days. My 3 year old is just as bright. She has the vocabulary of a person much older. Just the other day she was upset because she asked someone to draw a circle but she felt it was an "oblong." My IQ is 164. Guess what! Our family watches Spongebob every day! We love that show!!! Caillou is B O R I N G !!! You know what? It's ok for kids to be kids, get dirty, and do stupid things, and watch stupid things, because it's the only time in their life they will get to. They will spend the rest of their lives going to school, working, taking care of others. Let them have fun now while they can and take the pressure off of them to be geniuses!!! Every mother is constantly competing over what her kid can do. They are all perfect in their own way!!!

Debbie September 13, 2011 | 8:47 AM

I did not know this, but am so glad to hear it. I have a child who did watch Spongebob and does have ADD. I will tell my family about watching dear old spongebob. Thanks

Pmuj September 12, 2011 | 8:22 PM

The SpongeBob group's increased hunger obviously stems from heightened brain activity as those tiny four year old brains tried to keep up. As Nick says... wrong age group (and it really is). I've never heard of Calilou, but Caillou is a recipe for suicide during that mid-life crisis caused by never having gone down a slide. I once had a cat named Gilbert because of that show. Could they have made Caillou any whinier?

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