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September 14, 2011

Sponge Bob May Lead to Sponge Heads

The Effects of Sponge Bob on the Brain

A study published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that there may be an association with 4 year olds watching Sponge Bob and a decrease in their attention span. The study was small, involving mainly white upper and middle class 4 year olds. The 60 children were divided into three groups and then asked for 9 minutes, to draw, watch Sponge Bob or Calliou, a PBS cartoon. Immediately after, each was given an executive function test that measures your ability to concentrate. Results indicated that the Calliou and drawing groups both functioned equally and that the Sponge Bob group functioned significantly worse. This seems to be what parents have thought all along, that high paced crazy cartoons do any thing but calm down children.

In Nickelodeon’s defense, they claim that Sponge Bob is not aimed at 4 year olds and that it’s made for children several years older. I am not sure that it doesn’t have the same effect but common sense would suggest that it would. I think the bigger problem is using the TV as a baby sitter and that  sitting down with children  reading, drawing or doing other creative tasks would be much more beneficial. In this day of soaring childhood obesity, type II diabetes and the rampant diagnosis of ADD and ADHD maybe it’s time to turn off the TV or computer and get the children interacting with each other or their parents. Time to sit down with them and spend quality quiet time reading, talking or playing board games.

I think this study is too small to be considered gospel, but at the same time we should take note of it and use that as the stimulus to get our children up off the couch and  interact with them. We always had quiet time in the evenings prior to bed, this was the time we talked about our day or read . This was used a calming time, it certainly wasn’t time for the three stooges or horse-play. Highly stimulating cartoons appear to have several negative effects, hyperactivity, decrease in cognitive function and of course no exercise benefits. While TV, computers and air conditioning have greatly improved the quality of our lives they truly have had negative effects when abused.

Take home message: (something we didn’t need a study to tell us).  Quit using the TV as a baby sitter and spend time with the kid , you’ll love the changes.

See related articles.

“Aging Myths Debunked”

“Losing Weight While Gaining Years: Increase Your Appetite” 

“Sleep and Increased Longevity”

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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