According to a recent study led by a research team from the University of Virginia, watching the SpongeBob Square Pants cartoons makes preschool kids stupid. After only 9 minutes of watching the animation, the children could not perform a series of tasks which were very easy to do by children who were not exposed to SpongeBob’s influence.
Scientists demonstrate once again that you are what you eat, read or watch. Apparently, cartoons with stupid characters lead to the migration of stupidity to the brains of the watchers. In this case, the popular animation character SpongeBob is to blame.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a child development specialist at the Seattle Children’s Hospital and Prof. Angelina Lillard, from the University of Virginia, led a small study in which they wanted to find out what impact the cartoon has on preschoolers. The study was conducted on 60 children, 4 years of age, chose randomly, who did not have any mental or developmental issues. The children were divided into two groups. One group watched a SpongeBob episode and the other watched Caillou (a Canadian cartoon in which a grandmother reads stories to her grandkids). After watching the cartoons, all the children were given a series of mental function tests, which implied learning and attention skills. Those who had been watching SpongeBob did significantly worse than the others.
Although the group of participants is not large enough and further studies must be made, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who wrote the editorial which accompanied the study, believes that “what kids watch matters”. He says that there might be a worsening of the effects if the cartoon is watched more than 9 minutes, but “it’s not just how much they watch”.
Nickelodeon jumped into the defense of SpongeBob saying that the cartoon is not meant for 4-year-olds, but for children with ages ranging from 6 to 11. David Bittler, the spokesman for the network, states that the study has mixed up the age range and the cartoon (which do not match) and so it “could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust.”
One thing is for sure. Both the doctors and the Nickelodeon network said that SpongeBob is not suited for preschoolers. So it might be better if your four-year-old, or five-year-old watched other cartoons.