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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