Study: Fast-Paced Kids' TV Can Cause Short-Term Attention Problems

A new study of 4-year-old children found that just nine minutes spent watching fast-paced shows like the Nickelodeon television program SpongeBob SquarePants can cause short-term learning and attention problems, The Associated Press reports.

The study, which was published online in the journal Pediatrics, was small, researchers caution (only 60 children were involved), so the results should be taken with a grain of salt.  But the findings did show that children who watched SpongeBob scored measurably worse on mental function and impulse control tests than children who either watched the slower-paced PBS program Caillou or drew pictures for nine minutes.

University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob" shouldn't be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.

She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. "I wouldn't advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they're expected to pay attention and learn," she said.

A Nickelodeon spokesperson told the AP that the study was unfair because SpongeBob is made for older kids, 6-11 years old.


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