A recent study published in the journal “Pediatrics” demonstrated that 4 year olds who watched the cartoon “SpongeBob Squarepants” for nine minutes and then took an aptitude test scored significantly lower than 4-year-olds who had watched PBS’s “Caillou” for the same amount of time. Does watching SpongeBob decrease aptitude?
I’ll need a Krabby Patty to think this over.
The study's authors concluded that attention spans and learning abilities for children in the "SpongeBob" group were temporarily hindered because of the TV show's fantasy setting and fast pace. Problem solving, following directions and self-control were all at about half-capacity during the tests, said Angeline Lillard, the lead author of the study done at the University of Virginia.
The study though, was done with just 60 children, all white and middle class. That’s not exactly a comprehensive study. In fact, this study was so irritating and fast-paced, that after reading about it, my self-control was at half-capacity for the afternoon.
We’re a “SpongeBob” household. We love it. It’s funny. People don’t give enough credit to how valuable laughing can be. The show has slapstick, character based humor and social commentary.
We tried “Caillou.” It’s not that funny. Caillou is kind of a whiner, and the writing is preachy.
People love to blame TV for the fact that kids’ test scores are going down. In fact, a recent quote from Boston University President Daniel Marsh declares “If the television craze continues … we are destined to have a nation of morons.”
Actually, that’s not a recent quote. That’s from 1950. The nation of morons Mr. Marsh was referring to has put men on the moon, deployed the Hubble Telescope, invented the personal computer and the internet, and, determined, finally, that a screw-top is actually better for your wine than a cork. Now that’s research I can endorse.
In a recent Op Ed in the New York Times, Ed Hirsch, a literary critic and author of “The Making of Americans, Democracy and Our Schools”, declares that there has been a huge drop in children’s verbal scores since the 1970s. This drop cuts across all socioeconomic lines, and cannot be blamed on demographics or on TV. Mr. Hirsch correlates the drop in verbal scores to the changes in the elementary school curriculum which, he posits, has evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach.
Adults and children watch a huge amount of TV, and now they watch YouTube on their computers, their iPods, their phones. Testing pre-schoolers, scolding lax parents and decrying the media is not going to change that. We all love our “fantasy, fast-paced” shows.
But let’s get back to “SpongeBob.” He is a good-hearted guy, who would do anything for a friend. He forgives his enemies and turns the other cheek every time. He takes pride in his work, he is an excellent employee, and he lovingly cares for his pet snail. We have been watching SpongeBob since my oldest child was three; he is now 14. The show is still funny.
In a world filled with humorless studies and dour predictions, laughter is the best antidote.