Are TV shows like 'SpongeBob Squarepants' hurting your kids? | Deseret News National
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Charles Sykes, Associated Press
Culture

Are TV shows like 'SpongeBob Squarepants' hurting your kids?

He's yellow, he's square and he's full of laughs.

He's SpongeBob Squarepants, and he may be hurting your kids.

A recent study by Pediatrics, a medical journal, said that the "SpongeBob Squarepants" TV show might have negative effects on young kids. The survey separated a group of 60 4-year-olds into three groups — one spent nine minutes watching PBS’ show "Caillou," another drew pictures and the last watched "SpongeBob" for nine minutes, according to Forbes.

And the "SpongeBob" watchers, Forbes said, produced the worst results in showing their “executive function” over four tasks. The study said, according to Forbes, that the fast-paced and quick nature of the "SpongeBob" TV show was the cause of the issues.

“Given the popularity of some fast-paced television cartoons among young children, it is important that parents are alert to the possibility of lower levels of [executive function] in young children at least immediately after watching such shows,” the study said, according to Forbes.

But the study had some faults, according to Dimitri A. Christakis, who also wrote in the Pediatrics magazine. The sample size wasn’t big enough, he said, and the effects were tested directly after watching, which could be too soon to see those effects. And these 4-year-olds might be expected to do other functions by the time they grow up, which makes the study unhelpful in gauging the true effects of "SpongeBob" and cartoons.

“It should be noted, however, that there is a competing school of thought that the digital-native generation is becoming acculturated in ways that make it well suited to the fast-paced world they will grow to inherit,” Christakis wrote. “Simply stated, so what if too much of a fast-paced cartoon makes children highly distractible? Distractibility is all relative. Executives of the future (if not the present) will not focus on a single task but on many concurrently while updating their Facebook status.”

This isn’t the only time SpongeBob has been criticized for its lack of educational help, though. Slate reported on Jan. 27 that "SpongeBob" was ranked poorly in terms of being an education show in the survey, “Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America.” The survey “asked more than 1,500 parents of children 2 to 10 years old” to rate shows on how they promoted educational material. "Sesame Street" did very well, while "SpongeBob" tanked, wrote Lisa Guernsey for Slate.

“I’ve seen no evidence," she said, "that SpongeBob’s writers, aiming for laughs, are trying to be comprehensible to young children (or many of us adults, for that matter).”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com Twitter: @hscribner