“What kids watch matters, it’s not just how much they watch”

So says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital regarding the effects of watching SpongeBob. No joke:

The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch “SpongeBob,” or the slower-paced PBS cartoon “Caillou,” or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids 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 young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.

Kids’ 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.

 There are problems with the study: size, scope, etc. The spokesperson from the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterates its recommendation: two hours a day is just fine for kids over 2.

If 9 minutes of SpongeBob affects the mental function of 4-year-olds, imagine what 2 hours can do. 

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.

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.

What a crock. When should children be exempt from paying attention? Learning? Playtime is a natural means of exploration. But kids hopped up on SpongeBob and the like can’t focus enough to play, either, let alone sit still or, God forbid, listen to a parent.

Do yourself and your kids a favor: kick the habit of allowing your kids to rot in front of the telly if you haven’t already.

H/t: Hot Air headlines 

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11 Responses

  1. […] wrote about Dr. Dimitri Christakis a few months ago, citing his study of SpongeBob and Caillou. Here he is giving a TED talk, […]

  2. […] “commercial”.  Speaking of which, that recent discussion about which media is OK or not OK for tots, my 2 year-old luuuhves Attack Waaaatch. Share […]

  3. Thank you for sharing this. Definitely something I needed to read.

  4. I’m trying to limit all TV. That said, the whole family watched the Republican Presidential debate yesterday, and our kids get to watch a bit of baseball when DH is tuning in. We recorded a few Disney films, and turn them on in installments. Cupcake Wars are OK in small dozes… I have a rule, though, if me or DH find a cartoon or a show irritating, we will not show it to our kids.

    • The debate was good viewing for kids. Though I burned our veggies as a result. ; )

      I wish we could watch a few things in “installments,” but something about my kid’s personality (no, more more more!) prevents us from turning it on. Just finished an excellent documentary series on Yellowstone (BBC on netflix streaming in 3 parts). I would love to show her. But I’m wary…

  5. Mine have three hours per week and that includes the Wii. He always finds something else to do and I have noticed recently that he gets perplexed by his buddies who want to watch tv instead of ride bikes or swim or whatever else he fills his time with.

  6. I can remember years ago railing against Sesame Street. Those bright colors and rapid fire sound bites? Crazy making.

    I lean to the side of very, very limited TV and computer for all young children. I’m not against technology – just the misuse of technology.

    • No lie, Adrienne. There’s a fine line between keeping the attention of kids and destroying it. Mine becomes a zombie, and the demanding behavior for more is not worth the 20minutes of quiet.

  7. Surely ANY parent whose child has watched SpongeBob could have saved the time and money of conducting a study! When eldest boy was a tot he discovered that show. That very same day he started exhibiting behaviors that I had never seen from him before. I had not previewed the cartoon, assuming that if it was on that great kid’s channel, it would be fine. I did not immediately make the connection with the change in behavior. Happily for us it was about two days later when he threw a tantrum stomping his feet yelling, “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!” and lo and behold…behind him in the living room on the screen was a yellow sponge stomping his feet, saying the same thing. AHA! He was never welcomed back into our house and it was that experience that started my suspicion and distrust of the flickering screen. We have gotten rid of cable TV completely and live happily on DVDs and streaming videos when we need them for school work or sick child day.

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