A new earth-shattering and metaphysically incontrovertible study is out, this one saying that watching SpongeBob SquarePants can cause learning problems in little kids. How bad is it? According to a USA Today writeup, "just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds."
The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch SpongeBob, or the slower-paced PBS cartoon Caillou or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watchedSpongeBob did measurably worse than the others....
Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure — results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.
Kids' cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program "could be more detrimental," the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.
The study is online at the site for the journal Pediatrics. Here's the defense from Nickelodeon, the channel that pushes SpongeBob like low-rent heroin on the nation's small-screen playgrounds:
"Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust."
That's a pretty good point, but the real takeaway from the story has nothing to do with this particular study and more to do with the way media cover this stuff:
The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study's small size...
Wake up, America!: The more we focus on whether SpongeBob will make teh kidz dumb, the less we will focus on him making them gayz.
For more Reason, kids, and the boob tube, go here.
Read especially the interview with University of Tulsa professor Joli Jensen, who draws a distinction between what she calls "instrumental" and "expressive" understandings of how culture works. And this piece citing University of Toronto psychologist Jonathan Freedman on the limitations of lab observations when it comes to kids and TV.
For a sweet taste of SpongeBob, click below: