A recent study has revealed that four-year olds 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.
AdvertisementThe 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 more creative.
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 self-control".
"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 slower paced.
They discovered 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 compromised.
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."
"Another possibility 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.