A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that kids around 4 years of age demonstrated decreased attention levels after watching only nine minutes of the favored Nickelodeon show SpongeBob Squarepants.
Two groups were tested, one watched SpongeBob Squarepants and the other watched what the journal is reporting as a “slower paced” show called Caillou…
I’m familiar with both shows. I’m just not certain what the media outlets and / or the study is referring to as a “slower-paced” show versus the alternative of what? A more hyperactive show – featuring an energetic, flighty SpongeBob who is all over the place? (NOTE: Sarcasm intended here).
But seriously…this has generated quite a bit of news attention and talks children and attention issues.
Noted in the research, these children were not reported to have any identified attention problems like ADD / ADHD. It was also a small sample size (red flag), and the show is intended for 6-11 year olds.
These are the points being argued, debated, and presented by the mainstream media, research scientists, and of course the creators and distributors of the show. Oh, and let’s not forget that the American Academy of Pediatrics says “No television for children under two years of age,” and other groups are saying that we should focus on quality of television and NOT quantity.
Oh the issues I want to tear apart here and rant on…
#1. My readers know how I feel about research. It has it’s place, but typically there are flaws and limitations that while they might get mentioned (in small print) don’t lead the newscasts or the water-cooler talk on Twitter and Facebook. For instance, this story probably already has legs because it involves SpongeBob, television, our children, and attention questions.
The reality is, and mentioned, that this study involves a very small sample. And worse off, it’s reportedly a sample of all middle to upper class white kids. Where’s the diversity? There was also no-pretest measuring intelligence or attention span.
The researchers claim, as mentioned above, there were no identified attention problems in these children. BUT, we all know how misunderstood ADD / ADHD is.
#2 The issue of Quality vs. Quantity. I like that this is emphasized, but seriously, are we to be surprised that children are watching more and more television at a time when life is busier and busier on parents…just to get by and survive? Think about it… In a lot of families, two parents are out of the house working just to go by. Kids (older brothers and sisters) have more and more homework and even more extracurricular activities.
This now doesn’t involve or consider the current state of our society given how stressed out parents might be that they are possibly about to lose their jobs or might already out of work.
Ok…let’s not hit that panic button here quite yet. And I might be guilty of inciting some panic by stirring the pot.
But the issue of quantity verus quality is HUGE. Are we as parents / adults paying attention ourselves to what our kids are watching? And what about the commercials that are targeting a certain demographic between SpongeBob aged-kids and Calliou aged kids?
I’ve said my peace… I think research nowadays makes headlines because the news likes a juicy story. We are still struggling as a community to understand what causes ADHD, what contributes to ADHD, and to what makes an individual’s symptoms worse.
So does SpongeBob cause ADD / ADHD? Doubtful. And that’s NOT what the research is suggesting. (Me either). What is pointing out however, is that attention spans are being affected by current trends in society. And because we do a poor job diagnosing and identifying ADD / ADHD from other conditions…we have to be more alert of what is going on.
And more than ever, we need to be stronger advocates for our children. Information like this falling into the wrong hands can cause even more frustration, singling out, and fingers being pointed at our children (or even us as parents).
Now It’s Your Turn…
What do you think? Let us know your reaction in the comments.