According to a study published Monday, September 12, 2011 in an online issue of Pediatrics, fast-paced cartoons may affect childrens ability to learn.
Dr. Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor from the University of Virginia and lead author of the study stated that "parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows.
I wouldn't advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they're expected to pay attention and learn."
The study was conducted on 60 chidren aged 4 years old. The children were randomly assigned to watch 9 minutes of fast-paced cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. Other children were assigned slower paced cartoons like Caiilou which is a PBS station cartoon.
The third group of children were assigned to draw pictures. The children who drew pictures or watched the slower cartoons did significantly better on mental function tests given immediately after the assignment.
In addition, the children's ability to use self-control were substantially compromised in the first group. Typical fast-paced cartoons contain approximately 22 minutes of continuous action. Since this is the case, it doesn't take as much TV viewing with this type of content to cause attention deficit problems in small children.
In times past, parents were cautioned against long viewing periods of television as contributing to conditions like ADHD. With the popularity of present fast-paced cartoons, children can get the same dose of trouble in a short period of time.
Nickelodeon representative David Bittler claims that Spongebob is targeted towards 6-11 year olds and so parents shouldn't trust the findings as valid. Bittler claims that questionable methology was used in the research.
Dr. Lillard explains that 4 year olds were chosen for this study because they are at the heart of the period in child development when you see the most development in self-control abilities.