A recent study shows that when my kids come home from school and turn on the TV, I can’t get squat accomplished. If they put on SpongeBob, I struggle because I’m amused and distracted by the character voices. If they put on one of those live-action Disney shows, I’m distracted because I want to set my remaining hair on fire and run screaming across campus.
Similarly, a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics and reported on by the AP, found that four-year olds that were treated to nine minutes of SpongeBob fared more poorly on cognitive and attention tasks than latte-sipping (Canadian?) tots that peeped a similar dose of the PBS show “Caillou.” I wonder if the 9 minutes of “Caillou” is with or without the nap this show invariably brings on.
Is this finding surprising to any parents? (Especially Canadians.) SpongeBob is a loud, obnoxious, cartoony/violent, absurd show. That’s why I prefer it to just about everything this side of “Phineas and Ferb.” The irony embedded in the show is a solid curriculum for our day and age, and I actively seek it out for my 2nd grader as a substitute for the tween-infested shows referenced above.
But for a four-year-old? It’s a brain-sizzler. Overwhelming and non-sensical. Not recommended, especially for a kid about to take a cognitive test or encounter an unattended bowl of candy (part of the test, I kid you not). Which is not to say that Nickelodeon’s excuse that these kids are outside of Spongebob’s “demographic” to be anything but lame and cynical to a nauseating degree. They play the show on NickJr round the clock. They’re shocked to discover that younger kids are watching it and begging their parents to buy SBSP merch and branded products. Shocked.
It does serve to remind us what the AAP has been telling us for a while. No TV for kids under 2, very regulated amounts after that. It reminds us that even if we find cartoons amusing, not all of them are alike in the way they impact the brains of the very young.
But you knew that.
We all have to resort to the electronic babysitter from time to time, but for the health of our young ones we’ll stick with the boring Canadian ones. I’m looking at you, Curious George.