Spongebob SquarePants: Bad For Preschoolers’ Brains


The lovable sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea is cute, funny and potentially detrimental to kids’ mental functions. Research recently published in Pediatrics shows that four-year-olds who watched only nine minutes of an episode of Spongebob SquarePants performed markedly worse on “executive function” tasks than kids who spent nine minutes coloring or watching a PBS television show.

The problem with Spongebob SquarePants is the frenetic pace of the TV show, which switches scenes nearly every 11 seconds. When asked to perform tasks that “test cognitive ability and impulse control, such as counting backwards, solving puzzles, and delaying gratification by waiting to eat a tasty snack until told to do so,” the Spongebob-watching test subjects had more trouble focusing and controlling themselves. The kids who watched the PBS show, which switches scenes only twice a minute, were much better at completing the tasks and scored as high as the kids who spent the time coloring.

This study is interesting because it proves that TV is not necessarily bad for kids, but that some programs are much better than others. Along with moving along at an unrealistic pace that humans’ brains are not equipped to handle, the plot of Spongebob SquarePants depends on magical occurences and other things that can’t happen in real life.

Profesor Angeline S. Lillard says: “There is so much stuff that’s hard to assimilate, it might be disrupting the child’s thinking process, so they might not be able to grasp the messages that are educational. This suggests the brain is working very hard to register it all and gets exhausted afterward.”

Nickelodeon, Spongebob’s network, questioned the methodology of the study and criticized the small sample size. Network officials stated that the test subjects were too young, as Spongebob SquarePants is intended only for children six to eleven years old. The reality, however, is that 39% of Spongebob viewers are between two and five years old — and their brains are negatively affected by the show.

It is still unclear exactly how television affects developing brains, but this study definitely raises some concerns about the type of TV shows kids should be watching. Parents, remember to monitor the quality of TV programming as well as the amount of time your kids spend glued to the tube. There are great TV programs for young children — do your kids a favor and steer them toward the shows that will boost their mental functions.

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Photo credit: pobre.ch


Gabby Green
Gabby Green5 years ago

No! I love Spongebob I grew up with him. I am in all honor classes and he was all I watched!

Christina B.
Christina B6 years ago

Although I am a fan of Spongebob (I find its sense of humor very surreal and I like that!), I thought the study was interesting, in the sense that it might teach us something about the way the brain works.

Kayla Wolfaardt
Kayla Wolfaardt6 years ago

We chose not to live with a tv. Watch a movie on the laptop once in a while, but even that is rare.

Don Go
Don Go6 years ago


Did a research on this stuff before.

Cartoons can melt brains if we're not careful, but don't blame spongebob kids. He's just doing his job. Parents are the ones who need to get working.

Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

I just hope the govt. didn't pay for this study!

Lilithe Magdalene

I always thought SP was just plain dumb.

Now Bugs Bunny, there's an intelligent fellow. Just from watching him, I HAD to go find out where the Coachella Valley - and the carrot festival, therein - was located. I always get so excited when I drive though that part of Southern Ca.

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy6 years ago

i never really liked spongebob, i've always found the show, even when i was in the target age range, to be idiotic

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

I actually find myself agreeing with the corporation on this one. It's obviously tailored for an elementary to middle school audience, not pre-schoolers. Actually the scenes seem rather slow.

So preschoolers are confused by the scene changes? What about all the commercials that gratuitously come on every program and switch scenes in seconds? This means non-public TV is bad for young children, Doh!.

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Oh no! Spongebob isn't educational! Get a grip! How many of you finally figured out you can't buy giant rockets from Acme?

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

John R. trolling or attacking me? or going on how some people do not believe learning disabilities exist?