I grew up with Spongebob. Well, OK, I was 11 when it came out, but it’s been around half my life. But a recent study published in Pediatrics shows that just nine minutes of the fast-paced Sponge hurts children’s brain power. It can’t be!
The researchers tested their hypothesis — that fast-paced television does detriment to children’s executive function — on 60 four-year-olds. Twenty were allowed to watch Spongebob. Twenty watched Calliou, this comparatively dry PBS show about the adventures of the eponymous pre-schooler. And the last 20 just sat and coloured. After nine minutes, they were given tasks to measure their concentration and attentiveness.
And the Spongebob-ers performed poorly. Which kind of breaks my heart, to be perfectly honest. The findings served to verify the scientists’ thinking that, I guess, zanier TV makes it harder for developing children to think deeply. It also serves as an indictment of all media that encourages speedy engagement over focus and imagination.
Naturally, Nickelodeon has cried foul over the findings, arguing that Spongebob isn’t targeted at children of pre-school age. For my part, I’m left a bit curious. If Spongebob is a sign of a shift in children’s media that’s above all changing them, is there any area that the fast pace has done them good? Not that concentration isn’t important. Just… hasn’t even Sesame Street picked up the pace in recent years? [Pediatrics via Washington Post]