A recent study of the effects of small children watching the popular SpongeBob Squarepants cartoon suggests that the fast pace of the show is too stimulating for the brains of small children. This affects their brains’ executive functioning, the brain area that include attention.
In this study, three groups of four-year olds were the subjects. One group included children who watched SpongeBob. A second group watched PBS’s much slower-paced Caillou cartoon. The third group did not watch anything at all but spent the time period drawing and coloring. All three groups of children did this within the same amount of time. Afterwards, the researchers asked them to perform tasks for which they’d receive a snack. The children who had watched Caillou and drawing and coloring performed about the same, but the children who had watched SpongeBob did the worst. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute summarized the findings: “These children’s brains were actually tired from all of the stimulation, and then the expectation that they focus on something became a challenge for them.”
The take-away? “Not all TV is the same,” continued Christakis. “It’s not about no television; it’s really about appropriate amounts and appropriate types of television.”