SpongeBob and Learning

There have been some debate arising over whether watching SpongeBob SquarePants, the wildly popular and eccentrically fast-paced show, is indeed harmful for the concentration of young children.

The Telegraph reports:

Tests showed that four year-olds who watched just a few minutes of the popular television show were less able to solve problems and pay attention afterwards than those who saw a less frenetic programme or simply sat drawing.

Researchers say this could be because children mimic the chaotic behaviour of their favourite TV characters, or because the fast-moving and illogical cartoons make them over-excited.

As a result, they suggest that parents consider carefully which programmes they allow their offspring to watch, as well as encouraging them to enjoy more sedate and creative activities such as playing board games.

However, Ferris Jabr from the New Scientist question the harmful effects of the quirky cartoon and contends that it merely taxes the brain, but does not have lasting negative effects:

SpongeBob‘s exhilarating pace taxes viewers’ attention in a very different way from doodling or watching the unhurried Caillou. “Drawing requires planning and the pace of Caillou challenges kids to wait a little longer before they find out what happens next,” explains Eugene Geist of Ohio University in Athens, who has previously studied how television influences attention.

In contrast, SpongeBob swiftly soaks up the viewer’s pool of attention. Kids watching SpongeBob must devote a lot of cognitive resources just to keep track of what’s happening on screen, whereas Caillou offers viewers much more time to process events in the narrative. So the toddlers who had watched SpongeBob probably did not have as much attention to devote to the executive-function tests as the toddlers who had watched Caillou.

That means that watching a rollicking show like SpongeBob before a spelling test is probably not the best idea, but it certainly does not mean thatSpongeBob is hurting kids’ brains or permanently impairing children’s ability to think clearly.

Have you seen the cartoon? What are your own thoughts on its effects on children?

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