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Nickelodeon vs. PBS: New Study Finds Sponge Bob Affects School Readiness

There are many reasons parents choose PBS kids programming over Nickelodeon.  The violence, commercialism, values, etc. have always kept my kids off of Nick in favor of more wholesome, slower-paced programming on PBS, that is when we do watch TV.

A new University of Virginia study has confirmed what many parents suspect:  “fast-paced, fantastical” shows impact children’s readiness to learn.

Heroin and Cornflakes reports:

U.Va. psychologists tested 4-year-old children immediately after they had watched nine minutes of the popular show “SpongeBob SquarePants” and found that their executive function – the ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior – had been severely compromised when compared to 4-year-olds who had either watched nine minutes of “Caillou,” a slower-paced, realistic public television show, or had spent nine minutes drawing…

Lillard said there may be two reasons that a fast-paced and fantastical show would have a negative effect on the learning and behavior of young children.

“It is possible that the fast pacing, where characters are constantly in motion from one thing to the next, and extreme fantasy, where the characters do things that make no sense in the real world, may disrupt the child’s ability to concentrate immediately afterward,” she said. “Another possibility is that children identify with unfocused and frenetic characters, and then adopt their characteristics.”

Not only are children’s school readiness skills affected by such programming, but their related ability of self-control can also be impacted both at home and at preschool.

Ask any teacher that has been in the system for over 15 years, and you will find that children today need more stimulation to learn.  As one of my favorite teachers said, “You have to dancer faster to get their attention.”.  Look at textbooks, which confuse me with all of their little snippets and side boxes to distract from the lesson.  Are all of these changes in human behavior related to the media we are exposed to?

We are doing our children a disservice with shows such as Sponge Bob, which I find disturbing regardless.   Young children already have a difficult time distinguishing fact from fantasy, in fact it is usually one of the preK standards.  It is one thing to have animals talk and take on human characteristics, then to have sponges act crazy and violent.  Anthropomorphism is fun and healthy at an appropriate pace and balanced with realism.

Image:  AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Jon Ovington


  1. Well First Its TVY7! Not TVY4! Duh!!

  2. Maybe it’s because they weren’t bored to death!

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