I Don't Need Science to Tell Me SpongeBob Is Bad


spongebobHere 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

cartoons, learning


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marsh... marshsmom

I think I am responsible for teaching my kid appropriate behavior, not the TV.  I let my son watch Spongebob and he is 4.  He is also guided, disciplined and taught to act and speak respectfully.  I don't believe that TV shows are bad influences for children, it's the parents who allow the shows to influence the kids that is the problem.  Stop blaming TV and parent your kids!

mommix4 mommix4

I find the show annoying but I let my kids watch it. If they picked up negative things from it I wouldn't let them watch.

jagam... jagamama0710

We stick to PBS, Nick Jr, or Sprout. 

That said, our 4 yr old watches the old superhero cartoons with her daddy (he's a big comic collector). I'm not too concerned about it. 

I watched Ren & Stimpy when I was little, although not that little. lol You wanna talk about a show not for little ones...

texas... texasgurl33

I have never allowed Spong Bob into my house! Everyone has always chidded me over it, so I want to thank you for posting this article. It makes sense to me!

Melis... Melissa042807

I think SpongeBob is quite possibly the most obnoxious thing to ever hit the airwaves and it will NEVER be viewed in my home. I have that strong of an aversion to it. It makes me want to carve my eyeballs out with a rusty spoon.

We're a Veggie Tales family. Go ahead, mock me.

Melan... Melanie420

mylittle sister in 14 now and shes very very smart, gets perfect grades, and guess what, she watched spongebob, its been around for quite awhile, i remember watching it, so why is it a problem now?

Melan... Melanie420

oh and i loved scary movies when i was little, i rented every scary movie i could find since i was 6, theres nothing wrong with that, my parents arnt terrible people, and i cant find a person my age who didnt love Gremlins when they were little.....I mean come on, spognebob isnt bad for little kids and i find the show funny

Alexis Eggleton

I don't have children, so those of you that believe that disqualifies me from knowing anything about children or youth development can stop reading now. =)

But, since I spend quite a bit of time with mid-sized humans in a non-school setting, I can tell you my observations. Kids who watch SpongeBob WILL be exposed to crass and inappropriate behaviors. And since all kids in the 4-9 year old range (and most teens and adults, actually) actively learn socialization through mimicry, it's safe to assume that what they're watching on SpongeBob could manifest itself in their day-to-day interactions.

And yes, kids who watch Veggie Tales, PBS, Nick Jr. can at times be exposed to behaviors and situations we wish they weren't, but those instances are far and few between.

In my opinion, comparing shows like SpongeBob and Veggie Tales is like comparing video games and high-yield learning activities. In the case of the sponge and the video games, they're learning about scenarios that are usually age-inappropriate and aren't teaching them anything constructive. In the case of PBS programming and high-yield learning activities, kids are enjoying what they're watching/doing AND they're learning something.

Ultimately, it's up to the parents to decide what's the best use of their child's time.

jpfsmom jpfsmom

Eh..people thought Loony Tunes was destructive to toddlers and I absolutely adored it.  I'm not a huge fan of Spongebob just because I find it obnoxious.  My sons haven't discovered it yet but if they stumble across it, I'm not going "ban" it...


2tiny... 2tinyhineys

We watch Sponge Bob.  He has manners, shows up to work on time, and cares about his pet snail and all his friends.  Does anybody else think so?

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