Does ‘SpongeBob’ Toon Cause Learning Problems?

PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – Oh, barnacles! “SpongeBob SquarePants” is in hot water again.

A University of Virginia Professor claims the cartoon and others like it can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.

Just nine minutes of “SpongeBob” was enough to throw off their concentration levels compared to the much slower paced PBS cartoon “Caillou.”

“The younger the child, the less stimulation they need,” Plano child psychologist Dr. Sylvia Gearing said. “I don’t think a 4-year-old should watch ‘SpongeBob.’ I think I’d start that around 7 or 8, when they have more complex ways of thinking about the world.”

“SpongeBob” includes some heady topics, like the one referring to global warming in the episode called “The Endless Summer.”

Can a 4-year-old really soak up all that information?

Jason Padierna is 10. But he’s been watching “SpongeBob” since he was 4. “Like, every day,” Jason said.

His 5-year-old sister, Kelly, watches too. “I watch it every day and I never miss,” Kelly said.

Their dad, Santiago, watches with them. “We watch the same episodes over and over and over,” he said. He has no bone to pick with SpongeBob; Jason has ended up in a gifted and talented class. In his opinion, “SpongeBob” might have helped. “Because they figure out things so fast. And, it exercises the brain.”

Nickelodeon disputes the findings. They say the show is aimed at kids ages 6-11 and not 4-year-olds.

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  • DJ Lance Rock

    My two-year-old (almost 3) says, and I quote, “Change it! SpongeBob is a loser!” every time she sees that cartoon as we flip through channels. She prefers Team Umizoomi, Dora, and others that require the viewer to count, remember things, etc.

  • Old Timer

    Earlier generations watched Popeye, which encouraged children to eat Spinich, NOT punch out their neighbors as seen on the show. Parents guide their children, NOT television which should be taught ins’t real!

    • Sirhip

      He also smoked.

  • qlenfg

    I don’t think the show causes attention problems — I think it and other “modern” cartoons are written for kids with ADHD — there is very little plot and the scenes change back and forth quickly and randomly. At least the PBS stuff keeps focused on one thing for more than 10 seconds.

    • HJS

      I also don’t think the cartoon causes attention problems. I watched the show from childhood, now as a person in his late teens… LOOK THAT DOG HAS A PUFFY TAIL!

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