Watching fast-paced cartoons such as SpongeBob SquarePants harms young children’s ability to concentrate, solve problems and behave with self-control, psychologists have warned.
Angeline Lillard from the University of Virginia and colleagues compared children who watched nine minutes of a Spongebob episode with those who had spent the same time drawing or watching a more realistic and slower-paced cartoon.
Tests showed that four year-olds who watched just a few minutes of the popular television show were less able to solve problems and pay attention afterwards than those who saw a less frenetic programme or simply sat drawing.
Researchers say this could be because children mimic the chaotic behaviour of their favourite TV characters, or because the fast-moving and illogical cartoons make them over-excited.
As a result, they suggest that parents consider carefully which programmes they allow their offspring to watch, as well as encouraging them to enjoy more sedate and creative activities such as playing board games.
“Young children are beginning to learn how to behave as well as how to learn. At school, they have to behave properly, they need to sit at a table and eat properly, they need to be respectful, and all of that requires executive functions,” the Telegraph quoted Prof Lillard as saying.
“If a child has just watched a television show that has handicapped these abilities, we cannot expect the child to behave at their normal level in everyday situations,” she added.
The study has been published in the academic journal Pediatrics.