- George W. Bush to embattled Alabama kicker: You will be stronger
- Megachurch pastor with ties to Obama commits suicide
- WaPo to readers: Send us your ‘gun violence’ stories for Sandy Hook anniversary
- U.S. threatens Ukraine with sanctions over dispatch of riot police
- Canada doing away with door-to-door mail delivery by 2018
- NSA chief defends phone spying: ‘There is no other way’
- Hawaii Health Department head killed in plane crash
- Colorado school drops sexual harassment label on boy who kissed girl’s hand
- Australia court strikes down 5-day-old, gay-marriage law
- Fake interpreter at Mandela service: ‘Sorry,’ I have schizophrenia
Study puts SpongeBob in hot water
Question of the Day
CHICAGO — The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.
The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to watch either “SpongeBob SquarePants” or the slower-paced PBS cartoon “Caillou” or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the children took mental function tests; those who had watched “SpongeBob” did measurably worse than the others.
Previous research has linked TV watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure — results that parents of very young children should be alert to, the study authors said.
Children’s cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program “could be more detrimental,” the researchers speculated, but they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.
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. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Dr. Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. “What kids watch matters, it’s not just how much they watch,” he said.
University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in children who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.
She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn,” she said.
“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 said.
Ms. Lillard said 4-year-olds were chosen because that age “is the heart of the period during which you see the most development” in certain self-control abilities. Whether children of other ages would be similarly affected can’t be determined from this study.
Most children were white and from middle-class or wealthy families. They were given common mental function tests after watching cartoons or drawing. The SpongeBob children scored on average 12 points lower than the other two groups, whose scores were nearly identical.
In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, children were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. “SpongeBob” children waited about 2½ minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups.
The study has several limitations. For one thing, the children weren’t tested before they watched TV. But Ms. Lillard said none of the children had diagnosed attention problems and all got similar scores on parent evaluations of their behavior.
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- Washington Post to readers: Send us your gun violence stories for Sandy Hook anniversary
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- MALCOLM/REIMER: Over-criminalization undermines respect for legal system
- Study IDs reasons for late-term abortions
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- Colorado school drops sexual harassment label on boy who kissed girl's hand
- Teen thugs in D.C. run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow