files/pictures/picture-35.jpgThe Associate Press
reports on a new study published by Pediatrics that links short-term attention and learning problems in four year olds who simply watch as little as nine minutes of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. In the study, 60 children were assigned tasks of watching SPONGEBOB, PBS' CAILLOU or drawing pictures. Afterwards, they took mental function tests and the children that watched the underwater toon did decidedly poorer.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a child development specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital, said the study size is too small to make a concrete declaration, but it adds proof that media exposure in pre-schoolers is a public health concern. University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard stressed that SPONGEBOB should not be singled out, because all fast-paced animated programming falls into the same possible danger zone.
Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler was quoted as saying SPONGEBOB is intended for kids 6-11 and not four year olds. He also questioned the study's methodology and diversity. The study contained mostly white, middle class children. Another issue is that the children were not tested before watching the programs or drawing.
The SPONGEBOB group scored 12 points lower than the children who watched CAILLOU or drew. The last two groups scored the same. The study also linked watching fast-paced cartoons to self-control issues. The kids who watched SPONGEBOB only waited 2 ½ minutes to eat snacks given them while the other two groups waited four minutes.