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Just like SpongeBob, study has holes in it

September 17, 2011
By Per Peterson - Editor , Marshall Independent

Leave it to us to blame an wide-eyed, innocent, hard-working, yellow, spongy cartoon character for our children's slow development.

SpongeBob Squarepants and his mentally-challenged sidekick Patrick Star (who, by the way, has his own fan club) might not be the smartest invertebrates around, but they shouldn't be used as scapegoats for our children's deficiencies.

Angeline Lillard from the University of Virginia and some of her colleagues conducted a study that compared 4-year-old children who watched nine minutes of a Spongebob episode with those who had spent the same time drawing or watching slower-paced cartoon. What? Cartoons stunt our children's development? You're kidding, right?

I sure hope they didn't spend a good chunk of grant money on this study, which, by the way included a very small sample of children (20) - much too small to really get excited about.

We all know children get nothing constructive out of watching cartoons, but c'mon, aren't we all living proof that watching cartoons isn't as bad as researchers often make it out to be? I watched cartoons when I was a kid. So did you. So did your neighbors. Whether or not Spongebob is more fast-paced than Looney Toons cartoons from 30 years ago is hard to tell, but I doubt my continuous veiewing of Fred Flintstone as a young child prevented me from becoming something bigger and better than what I am today.

If we're so worried about our children's development and if it is somehow proven that all this cartoon watching has dumbed our children down, then we, as parents, need to look in the mirror to find out whom to blame.

Spongebob's not the problem. TV's not the problem. We are. If scientists and researchers want to do a study they should study us, the parents, not the kids, not cartoons.

Many of today's parents let the TV do the babysitting for them, either because they're lazy or they don't want to deal with a kid throwing a hissy fit because mom or dad made the TV screen go black. Shame on us. I'm not saying ban the TV - there are some good, educational, "slower-paced" programs on that could take the place of evil, brain-retarding shows like SpongeBob - but everyone knows it's bad practice to let the kids watch hours and hours of TV every day.

Parenting is work; plopping a kid in front of a TV is not in the job description.

It doesn't take much to get your kids away from the Bob - most little ones, I would argue, would much rather choose a half hour playing a game or coloring with mom or dad over a half hour of watching TV. It's all about giving children some options that don't involve using the clicker. Yours truly is nowhere close to being the perfect parent (you do know, there really is no such thing) and I fall into the TV?trap as easily as the next person, but I've made efforts to curb TV?watching in my house. And that, to me, is a start.

No, TV isn't good for little kids whose brains are still developing, but if you're going to blame SpongeBob for our kids falling behind, not being able to mentally function at an acceptable rate and behaving badly, then blame Phinneas and Ferb, too.

And while you're at it, you can blame Timmy Turner, Jimmy Neutron and even Dora, that little smarty pants. I wouldn't tangle with the Powerpuff Girls though. They're cute but they have a dangerous edge. See what I'm doing here? They're all to blame if you buy into all of this.

If a little SpongeBob every now and then really stunts our children's development, the answer is simple: Don't let your kids watch it.

Even Patrick knows that.



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