A recent study has revealed that four-year
who watched few minutes of a popular television show SpongeBob
compromised on their attention span and problem solving ability.
It has been shown that the ability to solve
problems or pay attention in four year-olds who watched just few minutes of 'SpongeBob'
was much less in comparison to those who simply sat drawing or, those who saw a
lesser fast-moving program.
The explanation provided was that frenetic
and far-from-real shows over-excited the children who also tend to mimic
these cartoon characters that they idolize.
It is recommended that parents carefully monitor
what their wards watch and encourage them to watch programs that are calmer and
SpongeBob SquarePants, an animated
series that has been aired since 1999, tells the tale of an "incurably
optimistic and earnest" sea sponge. Although it has been criticized for
'allegedly' promoting homosexuality, its surreal humor has gone down well with
adults as well as children
Angeline Lillard of the
University of Virginia, who conducted the experiment, said: "Parents should
know that children who have just watched SpongeBob Squarepants, or shows
like it, might become compromised in their ability to learn and behave with
"Young children are beginning to learn how to
behave as well as how to learn. At school, they have to behave properly, they
need to sit at a table and eat properly, they need to be respectful, and all of
that requires executive functions".
"If a child has just
watched a television show that has handicapped these abilities, we cannot
expect the child to behave at their normal level in everyday situations".
In the study,
published in the academic journal Pediatrics, Prof Lillard and fellow
researchers observed children who watched nine minutes of a SpongeBob episode
and compared them with children who had spent the same nine minutes sketching
or watching a Canadian cartoon called 'Caillou' which was more realistic and
little difference in behavior and performance between the two groups but it
was observed that the "executive
function" - involving ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate
their behavior - in four-year olds who had watched SpongeBob, was severely
Prof Lillard noted --
"It is possible that the fast paced shows where characters are constantly in
motion from one thing to the next, and extreme fantasy, where the characters do
things that make no sense in the real world, may disrupt the child's ability to
concentrate immediately afterward."
is that children identify with unfocused and frenetic characters, and then
adopt their characteristics."
Although the study provides some insight into
the hazards of children mindlessly watching TV, a lot more study needs to be
carried out for a conclusion to be made in this regard.