Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Is Sponge Bob Square Pants bad for my child?

The Daily Mail reported on an interesting story last week about a link between cartoons and impaired short term memory. In case you missed it:

Watching fast-paced cartoons harms toddlers’ ability to concentrate and solve logic-based puzzles, as well as undermining their short-term memory, according to research. 

Four-year-olds shown clips of animations with rapid scene changes, such as the popular SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon, performed significantly worse in problem-solving and attention tests than those shown slower sequences.
Psychologists who led the research believe that watching animations with constant changes of setting can over-tax young children’s brains, especially the part that controls ‘executive function’ – including goal-directed behaviour, working memory and delay of gratification.

Dr Angeline Lillard, of the University of Virginia in the U.S., said that while her experiments only showed children performed worse immediately after viewing the cartoons, the findings backed up other studies that found longer-term effects.

‘Our results are consistent with other research showing long-term negative associations between entertainment television and attention,’ explained Dr Lillard, whose study is published last week in the journal Pediatrics.

Previous studies suggest many children of pre-school age watch more than 90 minutes of television per day. A growing body of psychological research has linked healthy executive function to sociability and academic success.

‘Connecting fast-paced television viewing to deficits in executive function, regardless of whether they are transient, has profound implications for children’s cognitive and social development,’ said Dr Dimitri Christakis, of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, US. 

‘Put simply, television is both good and bad. The quantity of media, such as television, has been an unduly emphasised part of the story. It is not that quantity is unimportant, but the effects of media are more down to what is watched than how much is watched.’

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