This is terrible news. My 6-year-old son Liam loves SpongeBob. He will be devastated (and quite possibly hate me forever) if I tell him he can’t watch it anymore.
In the study, researchers from the University of Virginia took 60 4-year-olds and divided them up into three groups. Each group did a different activity for 9 minutes. One group drew with markers and crayons. Another watched a PBS cartoon about “a typical US preschool-aged boy” (I’m guessing it was Caillou). The last group watched SpongeBob. They didn’t call the show by name—they referred to is as “a very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea.” Yep, SpongeBob.
After the 9 minutes, they did tests on all the children that measured “executive function.” Executive function includes skills like paying attention, controlling impulses, solving problems, organization, or adapting to new situations. These skills are crucial for success in school and in relationships—really, for success in life.
The SpongeBob kids tanked. …
Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use.
Last week he answered your questions about bullying on Facebook. Here’s this week’s question:
Q: I am the first to admit that my children use TV, video games, and computers for more than five hours a day. I don’t like this about myself, but I also get them outside, and I guess I feel like I am doing my best at balancing all of this. I know it is easier for me to get my chores done around the house if my toddler is entertained by Noggin or Nick, Jr., and I guess I’ve let their marketing convince me that it’s okay to watch for hours on end because it’s “educational.” Sigh. How do I stop this? How can I go backward from what I am conditioned to do? What can replace these easy “babysitters” so that I can save my mental health? Very intrigued by your research.
–Looking for Balance, in Dallastown, PA