SpongeBob: Not the Best Test Prep for Your 4-Year-Old

By Douglas Main | September 13, 2011 2:32 pm

A study published yesterday in the journal Pediatrics found that pre-schoolers who watched a nine-minute clip of Nickledeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants scored lower on a variety of cognitive tests given to them immediately afterward, compared to peers who spent the same time watching an educational PBS show or drawing. Although the researchers don’t specifically call out SpongeBob (one of the most popular shows amongst children ages 2-11), they conclude that fast-paced, entertainment-oriented shows like this, which rapidly cut between different scenes, could cause short-term reductions in children’s ability to focus and solve problems.

That may sound ominous, but it’s important to note that the study only looked at children immediately after watching the show, so there’s no evidence that this effect will persist. And although previous research has shown a clear association between watching television at a young age and attention problems later in life, it’s not clear whether TV—or any particular shows—are actually causing long-term problems. Still, if your 4-year-old is about to take a preschool entrance exam, it’s probably not the best time for a SpongeBob marathon.

[Via the Los Angeles Times]

  • Erik L.

    When correlation is mistaken for causation it’s called “Doc’s logic”

  • JMW

    Regardless of whether this is coincidence or cause-and-effect, in my humble opinion there is NO time that is a good time for a SpongeBob marathon. Or even a SpongeBob sprint.

  • GuruOfChem

    Issues of correlation or causation aside, anyone who does not feel dumber after watching SpongeBob probably has no pulse either – or no brain at all…

  • RJS

    This is funny because I often tell my two young children, ages 6 and 8, that if they watch too much TV like Sponge Bob that their brain will shrink. I might actually be right!

  • vel

    It seems that once upon a time, we expected our children to want to grow up and thus watch and read things more advanced than they were. Now, it’s okay to watch television of a moron cartoon character forever.

    It may not be direct causation but it sure seems plausible that we are indeed making our children dumber by having such simplistic cartoons, reality tv, etc.

  • Kat

    My kids love spongebob. They recognize that spongebob is a moron. That’s the whole point of the show. To laugh at the ridiculous. To find humour In the idiocy. Not everything in life has to Be serious all the time. I think we should be more worried about placing pressure on kids doing pre-school entrance exams, surely???

  • Marlene Lundberg

    Does this mean that I have to quit watching Sponge Bob?

    Marlene, age 69

  • red

    @ Kat: I second that! I mean seriously if we as parents can not recognize the fact that sponge bob is meant to be dumb and our children can figure that one out then maybe we aren’t as smart as we think. I have a beautiful 2 year old who is incredibly smart, we do activities to learn all day, including watching education stuff on PBS like “super why” but at some point she, just like all kids need an escape to laugh at the dumb stuff on sponge bob. And really how is this study even remotely scientific or representative of the young population? 60 kids, 9 minutes of sponge bob and you test them immediately after???

  • Curtis

    Wow! What a great study! I let my kids watch Sponge Bob for like 10 hours a day – they like it and it keeps them out of my hair.

    I was wondering why my 9 year old is still in 1st grade – I think I just found the answer.

    Thank You Scientists!

  • Olivia

    @ Curtis
    Um, are you being serious? A 9-year-old in first grade? If you ARE being for real, I suggest you get some help for that child. And if not then I suggest not sharing information like that. True or not. Sorry for the negativity. 😛

  • HumorAnyone?

    Olivia’s reaction to Curtis is exactly the point. She must have watched 9 minutes of Sponge Bob right before posting her comment.


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