Is it time for SpongeBob to move to Adult Swim? According to a report [PDF] entitled "The Effect of Fast-Paced Cartoons" in the American Academy of Pediatrics's journal, four-year-olds who watched 9 minutes of SpongeBob SquarePants performed significantly worse in mental function tests than those who watched "educational television" like PBS's Caillou. However, those who watched PBS described being "so bored my eyes hurt real bad" and had an unslakable thirst for complimentary tote bags.
At issue is the speed of the action on the programs themselves, with SpongeBob being "rapid," Sesame Street as "natural," and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood designated as "what seems like slow motion." Not studied were Japan's popular "Seizure-Giving Robots." While the sample size was small (60 children), the study's author writes, "fast-paced television…has profound implications for children's cognitive and social development that need to be considered at reacted to." These children only watched nine minutes of a 22-minute program, so the effects could actually be much worse.
A spokesman for Nickelodeon told the AP that the study was overblown: "Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology," so there's no "basis for any valid findings that parents could trust." And did we mention that SpongeBob saves lives?
But one aspect of the study probably has the network smiling. Researchers measured how long children could wait to eat a snack after watching the respective programs. Children watching SpongeBob waited an average of only 2.5 minutes before totally going ballistic for some Fruit by the Foot or Dunkaroos or SOMETHING, while other children waited for an average of four minutes. Maybe PBS wouldn't have funding issues if Arthur knocked back a Hi-C every now and then.