Here we go again. Another TV study. Another warning that our kids are going to hell in a hand basket, and they're taking the remote with them. So what's SpongeBob SquarePants got to do with it?
He's rotting your kid's brains out one high-pitched shriek at a time. Well, sort of. Maybe. If you let him.
Here's the thing. The study out of the University of Virginia was focused on kids 4 and younger. They took 60 "mostly white and middle- or upper-middle-class 4-year-olds" and divided them into three groups. One set watched ol' SquarePants. One set watched something age-appropriate. The third colored.
Guess which group showed the worst signs of being distracted after a nine-minute stint? If you guess SpongeBob, give yourself a pineapple and a cup of salt water! The way the scientists call it, the "fast pace" of SpongeBob is too much for kids brains. More educational fare with slower pacing is better -- they say.
And I completely agree.
Oh don't give me that look. Despite being published in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics, the study is not the perfect marker. There were only 60 kids. The baseline used to determine kids' attention abilities was based not on scientific review of the kids' aptitude, but parental reporting. What parent do you know who is going to tell a scientist that their kid doesn't pay attention?
But these kids were 4 years old. SpongeBob, who is rude, crass, and just plain annoying, is aimed at kids 6 and up (disclaimer: I don't let my 6-year-old watch it ... did I mention he's rude, crass ... ). What the heck are 4-year-olds doing watching the show anyway? When I blasted Nickelodeon earlier this year for posting new SpongeBob videos on Facebook -- despite the site's rules that no one under 13 use it -- I was told again and again that this is a show enjoyed by (and seemingly aimed at) older people.
So what gives parents? Why is anyone actually upset about this news? Toddlers shouldn't be watching SpongeBob ... or shows like it for that matter.
I'm no scientist. I'm a human being. And when you sit in a room with an obnoxious brat, it doesn't take long to figure out what his (or her) parents let them do. Eleven-year-old's favorite movie is (the R-rated) Paranormal Activity? Seven-year-old has seen The Hangover? And we wonder why these kids are out of control?
Not only do they pick up inappropriate things from TV shows, things that their minds aren't yet developed enough to grasp, but there's an overall sign of what kind of parenting "guides" them along. Yes, I've let my child watch a lot of TV on occasion (I even copped to it for a national audience). But even in front of the television, parenting can make all the difference.
You're the parent. You pick the TV shows. You determine if they're appropriate. Not the kids. So what if SpongeBob is bright and colorful and they see a cartoon so they want to watch it? Cartoon porn is bright and colorful too. And I'm not setting up the computer so my kid can watch it.
It seems like we didn't really need this study to begin with folks. We just need parents to act like parents.
What do you think? Do your kids watch SpongeBob and his ilk? How old are they?
Image via pobre.ch/Flickr