Monday, September 12, 2011

Is SpongeBob really bad for kids? Surely you jest!

Shocking news today in the New York Times: Researchers recently reported that young children (specifically, 4 year-olds) are negatively affected by watching SpongeBob Squarepants. 


In other breaking news: eating sticks of butter causes weight gain in some and may raise cholesterol levels as well.

Apparently the researchers separated children into three test groups -- group 1 watched SpongeBob, group 2 watched Caillou (a slower-paced cartoon), and group 3 drew quietly.  Various tests, designed to assess attention, memory, problem-solving and the delay of gratification, were administered immediately after the children watched the program. Astonishingly,  the tests concluded that “[t]he children who watched the cartoon were operating at half the capacity compared to other children.”

Apparently the fast-paced fantastical sequences of certain programs may prime young brains to “not be able to pay attention to something that is not so fantastic." Dr. Rahil Briggs, a psychologist and director of the Healthy Steps Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, further concludes that "you may be priming the brain to be almost A.D.H.D.-like impulsive.”

I must preface my comments by admitting this: my children watch television. My children have watched television from virtually the moment they were born. {My nightly routine with my infant twins included Baby Einstein videos. Remember those?! I swore I was contributing to their mental growth by allowing them to stare at a screen with bright shapes and colors. Also, I just needed one to stay in one place will I dressed and fed the other.} Suffice to say, I'm all for whatever works.

That said, duh!!!!

First off, any mother who has spent more than 30 seconds watching SpongeBob is quite aware it is not quality programming for a 4 year-old. It is loud. It is obnoxious. It is rude and absolutely non-sensical. Does anyone even doubt this other than the four year-old allowed to sit in front of the television watching SpongeBob and mainlining sugar?

Secondly, I fear the kids in the Caillou test group were simply thrilled to do anything other than listen to Caillou's whiny voice and boring "adventures." Tell me I am not alone, but I refused to let my kids watch Caillou for fear that they would magically morph into bald, whiny kids.

But clearly, most mothers do not park their kids in front of the TV because they hope to further their education -- it's out of self-preservation.

We need a break.

We need to eat.


Make dinner for the rest of our family.

But there are plenty of other choices. In fact, there is a plethora of quality programming out there for young children. For heaven's sake, there are entire commercial-free networks filled with music and alphabet games and an animated dancing moose!

Personally, I would enjoy nothing more than this very study leading to the show's decline.

Sadly, though, my opinion is not shared by the masses.

And despite this research I fear next time little Johnny screams "I want to watch SpongeBob!" Johnny will most likely get to watch SpongeBob so mom can deal with the laundry.

Besides, Johnny's mom does not read the New York Times. And furthermore, Johnny can simply start taking Ritalin when his impulsive behavior becomes overwhelming at school.


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