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Is SpongeBob a Reason Why Your Children Have Less Self-Control?

Updated on April 26, 2013
The popular Nickelodeon cartoon has been front page news for possibly causing children to have less self-control.
The popular Nickelodeon cartoon has been front page news for possibly causing children to have less self-control. | Source

The Christian Science Monitor released an article on September 12, 2011 discussing a study among 4 year old children. The study allowed children to watch nine minutes of a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon and concluded the following:

"Kids who watched just nine minutes of the fast-paced children's cartoon "SpongeBob SquarePants" did worse afterward at tasks requiring focus and self-control than did kids who watched a slow-paced cartoon and kids who entertained themselves by coloring."

Here's a brief description of the survey and the conclusion.

The Survey

60 children participated in the survey. The children were split into three groups:

  1. Color a picture
  2. Watch SpongeBob SquarePants
  3. Watch a Public Broadcasting Service program (Caillou)

After the children participated in their specific task they were evaluated by a few simple tasks:

  1. Following directions (moving a "disk" from one place to another)
  2. Participate in a similar version of "Simon Says"
  3. Repeating number sequences
  4. Participate in the "marshmallow test" (place a plate of marshmallows in the room and leave, give options such as ring the bell and you can have two or wait until the adults returned and they could have ten.)

Do you think your children have less self-control after watching fast paced programming?

See results

The Results

Although the scientists were not able to state specifically what programming the children were watching, their descriptions were specific enough to concluded that the children were watching SpongeBob and Caillou. The results concluded that the children that were chosen to watch SpongeBob SquarePants for nine minutes were less focused than the children that watched the slower paced program or colored pictures. Scientists were not sure how long the effects of watching the fast paced cartoon last, but advised that it could be a cause of children losing focus.

If you're interested in the study-- here's the article published in the Christian Science Monitor:

SpongeBob Study: Do fast-paced cartoons impair kid's thinking?


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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      I heard about this study on the radio. Glad to get more details about it. Will have to follow your link and read the rest. Wonder how long the Sponge-Bob effect lasts?

    • bryteyedgemini profile image


      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great topic! I deffinitely notice this in my youngest son, he does way better when I limit his tv all together, and even though Spongebob is cute al funny, it certainly make my Nicky more hyper.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think it depends on the person. I watched a lot of television growing up and I did well in school. I also knew some kids who didn't watch as much TV and did well. What really matters is how much attention children are being paid by their parents, teachers and other influential adults. Those examples help them become better learners. TV isn't always the answer to every problem a child has, but it isn't always beneficial to them either. I think it all has to do with who is in their lives in addition to what.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      well now huba90 i'd be careful. Extremes, when it comes to children and no matter how well intentioned rarely evoke the desired outcome. This study is useless as it fails to follow a proper delineation and classification of the basic factors involved. 2 cartoons are presented - so it's not "cartoons in general" that are the problem. This is good, after all writing off a whole medium that is as diverse as becoming of it's rich history would be just Philistine-like.

      The problem isn't even Sponge Bob over Caillou, that's a question of genre rather than substance. The same effect can be observed in adults when asked to indulge in rock music vs. classical music or indeed action film vs. romantic comedy.

      Lastly the problem isn't the kids. A diminished attention span associated with elevated pulse rate and blood pressure via excitement or laughter does not mean your child is going to be cognitively diminished or in any way disabled for any noticeable period of time. In contrary such experiences might be beneficial. Consider the astronauts' training regime in the movie, "The right stuff" or really any adult professional working high skill fields such as rescue services, fighter pilots, surgeons and presidents. This is literally how we train people to be smarter when it counts the most; it's called the pressure test. The literature exists and is well documented. I honestly wonder how people get funding for these studies when money is so tight and so many beneficial research paths have had to be shelved. Also the press was able to figure out what programs they were watching from the scientists cryptic descriptions... I don't think these are very smart scientists.

    • huba90 profile image


      7 years ago from Egypt

      I don't have children,but defenitely if i do,i won't let them watch cartoons.I don't think they will learn any useful think from that.

    • hpedneau profile imageAUTHOR

      Holly Pedneau 

      7 years ago from Princeton, West Virginia

      I just read your hub "Too Much TV" and it is very interesting! 26 hours of television a week is a part-time job!

    • Amber Colleen profile image

      Amber Colleen 

      7 years ago

      My mom was telling me about this earlier. It's really interesting! I don't know about the kids, but I know when I watch TV with fast paced shows and fast paced commercials and so much jumping around, it's a lot harder for me to concentrate (of course I'm pretty sure I'm a bit ADD, too). But the fast paced nature of the TV and the fact that everything is in short snippets of time rather than something that requires our focus for long periods of time really does mess with our ability to focus on things longer. I wrote a hub about something similar, talking about an article discussing how people are watching too much TV and how it is effecting their attention spans.

      Good hub!

    • hpedneau profile imageAUTHOR

      Holly Pedneau 

      7 years ago from Princeton, West Virginia

      I don't have any children, so I don't know if children behave differently after watching SpongeBob. With the popularity of the show, I'd say not. What are your opinions? I'm interested to see how your children react to "fast paced programming."


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