A study published today in the medical journal Pediatrics has concluded that preschool-aged children who watch fast-paced TV cartoons performed significantly worse on executive function (like self-regulation, working memory and attention span) than children who watched an educational cartoon or drew for the same period of time. Researchers used a 9-minute snippet from an episode of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants for the fast-paced portion of the lab study — vs. a PBS series and drawing with crayons — in which 60 4-year-olds were tested and then evaluated. On the surface, it seems they could have saved some money lab fees for this one, as it’s not exactly breaking news that busy, fast-cut programming with loud noises and fantastical images can turn kids’ brains to mush. Still, there has been little data compiled on the subject, and the researchers concluded: “This result is consistent with others showing long-term negative associations between entertainment television and attention. Given the popularity of some fast-paced television cartoons among young children, it is important that parents are alert to the possibility of lower levels of [executive function] in young children at least immediately after watching such shows.”
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