Man, oh man. When I saw the headline from this Wired article (SpongeBob Found to Impair Preschoolers’ Thinking — Should You Be Worried?), I almost cried with joy. At last, I thought, I can voice my deep dislike of the square yellow sponge by jumping on someone else’s bandwagon. However, after a quick read of the article, I had to agree with the author, there were huge gaps in the reasoning. Basically, the University of Virginia published a study that said: “….that preschoolers who watched SpongeBob SquarePants had increased difficulty performing tasks requiring focus and self-control. The study draws the conclusion that watching a fast-paced TV show negatively affects kids’ cognitive functioning for a short time after watching it.”
So they took a bunch of four years olds, and split them into groups to watch SpongeyPants, something called Caillou ( slow paced cartoon with a bald child), or draw without TV at all. They then gave the children mental function tests. Result: the children who watched Squarepants did measurable worse. Hmm…the author of the Wired article, Matt Blum, came up with the same objections to the study as I did. Firstly, Spongebob isn’t aimed at four year olds. Second, why single out Spongebob? And lastly, there’s no discussion as to why the children performed badly after watching. Like Matt says, maybe the kids were just bored (and losing the will to live) after watching the yellow square.
Trawling around a bit, I discovered that: “University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.” Ok, thanks for that. Does that include Looney Tunes and other WB kids procutions which have, certainly in the past, contained some seriously bizzare imagery?
And then this: “The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study’s small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis.” This is a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Wow. Hold the phone. What an amazing, bland, all encompassing statement. Let’s look at it again: “Media exposure is a public health issue.” Really? I see parents diving for their children in the newsagents before they can see the magazine and newspaper stand. “Noooooo Johnny!!! Don’t look at the MEEDIA!” Too late, take Johnny to the doctor, because now he has health issues.
So yes, lack of testing before publication seems to be key. Poor Nickelodeon. To really say anything like this about Spongebob or any fast paced cartoon, you would have to cross test with several other activities that children partcipate in regularly. For my own part, I seem fine. The only effect I have noticed for myself is that when I take my sword outside and shout “Thunder, thunder, thundercats HO!”, nothing happens.
Oh, by the way, I know the title is misleading.