Study: Some cartoons are bad for children's brains
September 12th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Study: Some cartoons are bad for children's brains

Some children's television shows may be bad for young kid's brains according to a new study about watching cartoons. It appears that children may not concentrate and focus very well after watching fast-paced programming.

Researchers from the University of Virginia showed 60 4-year olds a 9-minute chunk of what they call an "animated kitchen sponge" cartoon. The experts then tested the children's memory and thinking skills and compared their scores to other youngsters, who had watched a slow-paced educational cartoon or drew pictures with crayons and markers.

The pre-schoolers who watched the fast-paced shows did much worse on the thinking tests than those in the  two other groups, who scored about the same. The researchers suspect that the brain gets overtaxed or tired from all of the stimulation from the fast-paced cartoons leading to lower scores.

But what this means for children long term is still an open question. Several other studies have found a link between heavy television viewing and problems with children's attention spans, especially in young children, while others have not. Some researchers are concerned, however, because the ability to concentrate and not get distracted often shapes how well children do in school. Preschoolers watch at least 90 minutes of TV a day, according to the study, but other researchers estimate young kids watch between two and five hours of TV daily.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents "limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day" and "discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years" entirely.

This new study is published in the journal Pediatrics, which is a publication of the AAP.

"We can't tell you definitively from a scientific standpoint what the long-term effects are, but this one small study – if it's confirmed – is suggestive that this could be a real problem," explains Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of an editorial in Pediatrics.

Christakis and other researchers say, that when children's brains, which are still developing, are bombarded with too much stimulation, it can interfere with their ability to learn to focus properly. He suggests that parents keep an eye on what their children are watching.

"The point of this study and a lot of other research in media is that what your kids watch is as important as how much they watch. It's not just about turning off the television, it's about changing the channel," says Christakis.

Nickelodeon, owned by Viacom International, which produces the cartoon "SpongeBob SquarePants," released the following statement to CNN when asked about the study. "Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted demo, watch 9 minutes of programming is questionable methodology. It could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust."  It pointed out that the SpongeBob cartoon is designed for 6- to 11-year-olds, not 4-year olds, like the children used in the new study.

But Christakis says the research methodology is solid and though the study is small, its design is stronger than previous research and the findings are significant.

"The important take home message here is that the content of viewing actually matters. Many, many parents have rules about the quantity of programming their children watch but far fewer have restrictions on what they watch," says Christakis.

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soundoff (1,046 Responses)
  1. boocat

    I grew up watching Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner and Daffy Duck to name a few. These cartoons were just PURE ENTERTAINMENT. I feel sorry for kids today because even their cartoons can't be classified as "entertainment." After testing as a teenager, I was told my IQ was 131. Maybe these kids are watching the wrong cartoons.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fishstyx

      You're either a typical Fox News Teabagger who sees "liberal" boogeymen around every corner or you're a humorless twit. Which is it?

      September 12, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
    • TheNumber

      Boocat, I think you just aged yourself there – I watched the same cartoons when I was a kid (I'm 44 now.) I have two boys now 10 and 12 and I think another difference between what we had then and now is the availability. We got to watch cartoons for a short window after school and Saturday mornings. Today, kids can watch cartoons 24/7.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      TheNumber has hit the nail on the head. The "Veg out and watch toons all day" option was not available to us then. You got your 30 minutes, maybe an hour a day of cartoons. Saturdays by 11:00 the TV was ruled by dad. We had to pay attention gosh darn it. Lord knows when the next time they would roll any particular episode. Silly Rabbit, cartoons these days are just advertising platforms for licensed merchandise, not entertainment.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
    • Jesse

      Ever wonder why idiots like Nah have to try and drag politics into EVERYTHING? Seriously, get laid occasionally, dipstick. It'll improve your outlook on life.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
    • Nunya

      Pretty much the same here. There were very few "educational" cartoons when I was a kid like there are now.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
    • Bruinsdude

      IN MY HOUSE... TV happens ONLY after play/sports/homework/baths/dinner. And, THEN only PBS, Nature, Animal Planet, etc.... WITH parents, then books and bed.

      IT'S up to the PARENTS!

      September 12, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
    • John

      If your I.Q. really was "131" then you would understand the article, but you obviously do not.

      September 12, 2011 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
  2. Sandra S.

    What was the time delay between the viewing and the testing? Does watching a show like that in the afternoon/evening affect the child's ability the next day in school?

    September 12, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BobbyR

      Only if he doesn't do his homework.

      September 12, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • Ray (arvada, co)

      Good point. I suspect memory and concentration would improve for the "action based tv" group if they have been removed from the stimulus. Based upon this "pop science" sports could be demonstrated to be bad for the brain. Let some kids go run around after a ball for 10 minutes and others sit and stare at a wall. Next, bring them together and have them listen to a paragraph and fill out a questionnaire about that paragraph. I suspect the conclusion would be playing sports is bad for the brain. As such, I suppose one could conclude that either playing sports is bad for the brain or staring at walls is conducive to brain development.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      the tasks were given after finished watching. there are other studies out there – lots actually – if you're interested in how tv viewing affects performance overall

      September 12, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
  3. BobbyR

    I had a friend growing up who's parents were very strict compared to my households standards. He was watching "Sesame Street", while I was watching "The Simpsons". He grew up to be a strange, reclusive man... and me? well I'm completely awesome.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SouperMan

      You certainly are. I also am a pillar of awesomeness! It's unfortunate that I am famous in adverse proportions to how cool I am, for I would bestow upon the people a golden age of awesome! So awesome that future generations of historians would have to read about it with sunglasses on so they won't go blind from the awesome.

      September 12, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Me

      The problem with your example is that The Simpsons was never meant for children. I am glad you did not grow up to be a pompous fool at least.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
    • la

      lol – Love your sense of humor!

      September 12, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
    • BobbyR

      Souperman, you are my hero!

      September 12, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
    • Real teacher

      You insinuate that Sesame Street is good. It's drivel. Speech therapists are making a killing trying to fix Elmo speak, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This endless fantasy non-sense is destroying our children's ability to deal with reality.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
  4. I love the animated kitchen sponge

    Bummer if the findings are true. I think the writing in Spongebob is comedic genius. Educational? Not so much. Unless you want a great course in black comedy. 22 minutes or so of belly laughs a day has to be worth something, right?

    September 12, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mep

      Since the comedy in Spongebob would totally go over a preschooler's head, I don't think the 22 minutes of belly laughs would apply.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
  5. Ashok Srinivasan

    This confirms what I've suspected all along and I'm glad someone did this research since apparently these days common sense is no use against corporate behemoths whose only goal is to capture a kids attention to the point that they cannot take their eyes off the TV since the scenes are edited to a fraction of a second. This ensures the corporations a steady income from captive consumers. Besides being extremely annoying, its clear it cannot be good for kids to get used to such fast entertainment since most real world work requires slow and deliberate thinking. This is another example of why we cannot let the free market alone dictate everything. Their only motive is money. Left to their own devices why would they dish out anything but trash TV and artery-clogging meals. And republicans and libertarians, don't tell me that parents alone should take the responsibility to curtail such fare. Any parent knows that kids watch these programs not only at home but also at friends places, hospitals, you name it.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Girl

      Holy Crap! You really need to get out more and go find a friend. This was a very scary post and I bet you never saw Scooby Doo.

      September 12, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • whatguy

      Man, I don't know where you are but in my real world work, it requires us to be able to be fast and agile thinkers. We have a guy who is a slow deliberate thinker and he can't keep up or compete and doesn't like the job for that reason.

      September 12, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      So you want the government dictating what kinds of programs can be shown? That's just the other side of the sword, and they're just as corrupt and interested in dumbing down kids. Big business & big gov both want to control. I know you don't like it but it really is the responsibility of the parent to make some extra effort to expose their kids to what they consider good.

      September 12, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      Well said. What scares me is the fact that so many parents don't see what is going on. They may be too engrossed in their own TV and video game addiction, to notice what is happening to their children.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • BobBob

      I agree. Control can't come from above. Parents (read we) need to take the responsibility for what our kids are watching and doing. I think sometimes that t.v. and movies are used as an easy and cheap babysitter while parents do what they need or want to do. It's a great to get the kids to fall asleep or to sit down and shut up. My parents made me go outside and play or read a book. I wasn't allowed to watch too much t.v., but I also didn't have to watch boring stuff all the time. There's a balance, but kids need to get outside and off their butts. Same goes for parents. Things need to change in our homes, not just in our education system, in our t.v.s, or restaurants.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • Me

      (chuckles) Okay, time for some professional help?

      September 12, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
    • otto

      My friend, this drivel masquerading as "research" had been out there for at least 50 year (like when my parents were told I shouldnt be watching the 3 Stooges). Its unfortunate that they decided to pick on Spongebob, which in my opinion is one of the best examples of modern cartoons (up there with Invader Zim, Ren and Stimpy). Just like the classic WB cartoons of my day (Bugs Bunny etc), these cartoons depict complex social themes and satire that can be appreciated on many levels. Kids are very perceptive and are aware of whats going on and that there is more than just action on the screen. Also, I dont recall any hidden product placement going on with Sponge Bob. No candy, toys or clothing messages appeared to be hidden in that show. Maybe what they should have done was have these kids sit through 60 hours of Dora the Explorer and watch them turn into drooling idiots.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I think you forgot what its like to be a child and want some entertainment directed towards you. Don't try to put adult politics into what a child likes. We all know now that childrens shows were meant to make the kids want to go out and buy toys, but now that I've grown up and realize this it still doesn't change the fact that I loved the cartoons growing up (and the toys) Why must we try to over analyze things and forget that kids just want to be kids and have entertainment geared towards them.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:36 | Report abuse |
  6. hobbs

    You could interpret this study to say that the fast pace cartoon "exercised" the kids brains more than the slower cartoons. Thus, if you had them take a test with a greater period of rest between the "exercise" those kids who watched the fast paced program may do better.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jb

    Good for kids, bad? Who knows. But fragmented, fast-moving images and content in cartoons is very similar to what adults face on a daily basis in popular media. So maybe it's simply the first step into the information age we all live in.

    I find it interesting that nobody has correlated so called ADD with the speed at which modern media moves. Are fast-paced cartoons really so different from 30 second commercials that pack entire stories into small components of time? Or having 500 cable channels to surf through on 500 different subjects? Or hearing, reading, seeing 5 second "news" headlines constantly and daily? Or consuming corporate messaging through all media in all walks of life? Or surfing the web in a sea of thousands of topics and links leading to thousands more?

    The point is that information has become fragmented and condensed and multiplied many times over. This is the world our brains learn to live in and adapt to. Are cartoons like this bad for kids? Maybe. But they're simply one beginning piece of what these youngsters will come to experience over a lifetime. Love it or hate it - it's not going away likely anytime soon. But it is an interesting area to explore and consider - for everyone's potential future benefit.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BobBob

      Well said. I sometimes wonder what happened to reading, going outside, visiting neighbors or family as a source of entertainment. Electronics aren't the only, nor best form of entertainment. It is, however, the easiest and seemingly most gratifying.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
  8. julie

    So, they did not test the kids BEFORE watching the program. They only tested them after so they have no base line on this particular group if kids' focus. No before and after. Additionally, how about taking the same set of kids and involving them in a running game and see how their focus is after that as well.

    I think everyone's focus alters throughout a day. How's your focus after lunch? How is it after a meeting? I think this study proves absolutely nothing overall...

    September 12, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Correction

      First of all, how do you know they didn't test the kids beforehand. Just because the article doesn't (and can't) contain every aspect of the experiment, doesn't mean they didn't follow good practice. Second, why do you have to test the kids beforehand. Are you saying that if you take 60 kids and at random assign them to 3 different groups, that there is a high probability that worst performing 20 happened to be randomly assigned to the "fast paced cartoon viewing" group? Seems a bit of a stretch.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
    • Parenting parent

      I think that's just your way of justifying not having to appropriately parent your child.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • Derp

      You do the test beforehand as a way to verify that there is in fact a significant impact from watching the kitchen sponge TV show compared to the thought provoking preschool shows. If you give them the test before and after it will allow you to make the judgment that the show is in fact the cause. However, if the kids score the same both before the show and after then how can you prove that the show is what caused the results that you have received. You may want to rethink your eagerness to accept responses based on unsubstantiated claims that are the result of half of a test.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
  9. Bert0529

    So let me get this straight......

    There was a study.... conducted at a university...... by people who met the entry requirements of that university........which found that 4 year olds learn more efficiently after watching a television show designed to educate 4 year olds than after watching a television show designed to make 6-11 year olds laugh?

    Stella Liebeck is shocked!

    I wish this study could've been funded by my tax money. I'd love to be connected, even if only remotely, to such groundbreaking science.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I love the animated kitchen sponge

      This comment is hilarious. Thanks for the laugh!

      September 12, 2011 at 15:12 | Report abuse |
    • Mean Mom

      And yet, without studies like this, parents continue to let their kids watch this mush. I could have told them what their results would be after watching my own kids lose focus and and become more argumentative after watching tv, but somehow I'm the only "mean mom" in the neighborhood who limits tv. Go figure. Some people need an "expert" to tell them the obvious.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
    • kirstyloo

      No, the study indicated that there was at least a transient period after the fast paced cartoon where learning was decreased. It fits into the over arching literature trying to assess the impact of TV watching on children's learning...particularly young children's learning.

      And yes, siblings often watch the same shows even if he/she isn't in the correct demographic yet.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
    • Bert0529

      Kristyloo, it doesn't even really prove that. At most it proves (tenuously) that 4 year olds score differently on a memory/thinking skills test after watching one kind of programming than after watching another kind of programming- only one of which was age appropriate. To be serious for a moment, that is all this study achieves. Like Robert mentions below, it is a gateway study which indicates a possible correlation. The author of this article chose to paint it as "Spongebob is bad for kids' brains." But that's a wildly interpretative take on what is actually in evidence.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  10. Sara

    Many fast paced cartoons and video games flash images and redirect a child’s focus every 10th of a second. It’s just common sense that these flashing images will program a child’s (still developing) brain to constantly lose focus even after the tv is turned off, thereby creating attention problems. Flashing images at a young child causes their brains to malform. It doesn't make them "stupid", but it does make it difficult for them to focus in on something at school because they are programmed to adjust their focus ten times a second. Probably why so many children today are prescribed ADHD medication, when they should be prescribed NO TV and video games.

    September 12, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BobBob

      I have to agree. I hate to be an old-fashioned granny about this, but ADD and ADHD have become part of the national lexicon within the last 20-30 years. Along with this discussion epidemic-level obesity in children and adults has also become a very real national worry. Video game and film-making technology has also grown at a startling rate. I believe that there is a connection. We are living in a very decadent and lazy time and society, and I think that our intellectual and physical abilities are suffering. We are falling behind other developed nations. I think that we are losing what makes us great: our tireless work ethic, energy, and inventiveness. I don't think that t.v., movies, games, or the internet are bad, but all the evidence points to that we rely on them too much.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
    • NOVANative

      I suspect that the research showing that antidepressant use by pregnant women increases the likelihood of ADHD about 3-fold (published last month, look it up, as CNN isn't liking links today) will with time prove to be much more ground-breaking ADHD work. SSRI's were problematic, in particular. When was the first SSRI manufactured? 1988:Prozac. There is definitely a correlational trend. Further research should glean out whether it is causal. Since ADHD seems to involve the monoamine neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine), the possibility that these drugs used in pregnancy might effect the fetal brain should not be surprising.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse |
  11. benneac

    Kids are going to grow up to be whack jobs whether they watch Spongebob or not. Or they will grow up to be normal. There is a study out there to prove everything. Didn't the American Tobacco people produce a study a long time ago that showed that smoking didn't cause cancer? They probably got big money from Cartoon Network to trash a cartoon on Nick. I will be watching SpongeBob tonight after the kids' homework is done!

    September 12, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mark Wells

    They give the kids a test immediately after watching these cartoons. They are basically saying that the kids who watch the 'fast paced' show are mentally exhausted. This doesn't support the conclusion that fast paced shows are 'bad for their brains'.

    Imagine a similar test given on physical condition. One group does intense exercise and another group does nothing. Immediately afterward, give them a strength test. The group that's tired does poorly while the groups that's rested does well. Then draw the conclusion that exercise is 'bad for your body'.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Robert

    What about Hong Kong Phooey, Batfink, Snagglepuss, Magilla Gorilla (for sale), Betty and Wilma from the Flintstones?

    September 12, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Newyorker

      I use to watch all of them as a kid, and I was still able to finish grad school with a 3.9 GPA. So, I think those are cartoons are safe.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • Newyorker

      Too bad there's no spell check that would have found the extra 'are' in my post

      September 12, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
    • Newyorker

      Or 'used'.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
    • @Newyorker

      it must have been the spellcheck that got you through grad school

      September 12, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
  14. Steven

    They can determine from only 60 kids that 9-minutes of a cartoon is bad? Now you tell me they tested 3000 kids with 9-minutes against 3000 kids with no cartoons and maybe that will mean something. Something. You need to try this also with 3000 adults and 9-minutes of reality shows to show how dumbed down they are getting.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Robert

    Your read a secondary source and repute the validity of the research? Fail. Has anyone ever heard of gateway research? The research was done. It substantiated a correlation. Whether the the correlation was great or not, it indicated a need for further research in the subject. Period. The target audience for the sponge may not be 4 year old children, but 4 year children do watch it. Therefore, as a social experiment, it is research that has a need. Of course, you need to vary the sample and do a longitudinal study of subjects. However, you must also learn to control the scope of your research. You can not just do one all encompassing study and call it good. If all research was only done this way, we would never discover anything, because of the inability to gather the necessary resources or subjects in a specific period of time. Many of you understand the basis of the scientific method and statistical research, congratulations on your mastery of Stats 101 and Intro to Research. Now learn how to manage a scientific experiment over the long haul or did you forget the Principles of Project Management which also apply?

    September 12, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Chachi Rodham-Clinton

    Must be some evil conspiracy!

    September 12, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Baffalp

    Sounds more and more like people are expecting these shows to be the teachers for the kids.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mean Mom

      No, they are expecting parents to be parents. An even rarer phenomenon these days.

      September 12, 2011 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
  18. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    Well...yeah, but fast-paced entertainment is supposed to leave you excited. It's the same as when you come out of an exciting movie. The excitement wears off after a while and you're back to normal. As long as these kids aren't expected to do schoolwork right after they watch, I don't see the problem.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Saboth

    Doesn't really prove anything. Show an adult a fast paced football game and ask him to take out the trash and see if he remembers. The links are tenuous. It's like the study that tries to link violence with violent video games. After playing a game, the kids are hyped up and fighting each other. However, no long term effects were found. Just think about it: if violent video games actually caused people to become violent, we'd have millions of school shooting daily and there would be road rage murders numbering in the thousands, as the majority of people now play video games of some sort now, and most are violent.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. olrightythen

    Strange. My kid watches all these cartoons. Not all day everyday. He plays with his toys, reads comics, watches spongebob, plays video games. Yet, he's one of the top students in his class. Explain that to me. He is well behaved for the most part also. No different than anyone else.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robert

      The research doesn't say cartoons are the only link to a child's success. Social learning encompasses environment, socioeconomic status, peer groups, etc. Your child watches television but perhaps has a positive parenting influence which counteracts the negative correlation of garbage TV. Singular anecdotal evidence does not disprove a theory. It merely implies there are confounding variables in your situation that have not been isolated as is required in a controlled experiment. Long story, short... you are succeeding, where many others are failing. Or more to the point, television programming may be a contributing factor to poor academic success which is exacerbated by poor parenting or other external negative stimuli.

      September 12, 2011 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
  21. olrightythen

    And humans were stupid and violent before tv and video games were around so go study that.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Meki60

    that was not an 'animated kitchen sponge', it was Obama giving one of his telepromter speeches.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Joshua Ludd

    Television is bad for the mind. Period. It suppresses higher brain function, and even if it didn't... most of what is on is crap anyway.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Charms

    Born in mid 80s I can tell that things have really changed. For instance, if you watch Cartoon Network these days you can see that the level of violence and randomness has been amplified. I am sure my liberal counterparts will disagree but ultimately, there is just too much for kids to digest these days. Just an opinion.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Bafflegab

    Short term memory and attention are easy to redirect. All you need to...do...is...(uh)...
    Sorry, what was the problem again?

    September 12, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Endolphin

    It seems like there are a few flaws with the conclusions made from this study.. for example, according to their methods one would also conclude that exercise makes you weaker. Like the article states, there is a possibility that the results were due to overtiring of the brains of the children watching fast paced programming, just as one might experience after a mile long run. If one tested someone's athletic ability just after strenuous exercise, they would obviously not perform as well as when they are well rested. However, in the long term, exercise is good for the body, and so it must be possible that fast paced programming is in fact good for the mind. Regardless, it seems obvious either way that kids who have just watched a fun and interesting show would probably still be thinking about that when given a boring test afterward, while children doing normal or boring tasks might be more engaged in the test activity. I don't think this study concludes much that anybody wouldn't already know, if you give a kid a math quiz just after they're playing or watching Spongebob they won't perform as well in the short term, however the wording "bad for the brain" makes it sound like permanent damage when in fact the differences probably wouldn't even remain between the groups two hours later.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robert

      Your arguments are with the CNN author, not the research author (of which you did not read).

      September 12, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse |
  27. Mike

    I'd bet money that the group of kids who drew pictures with crayons would outperform any group of TV-watchers, regardless of what was being watched.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Grimsby

    Ren and Stimpy is the best show for the very young.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Tony

    maybe it's not bad for the brain but it just causes the children to get worked up and their cognitive function lowers temporarily. it's like the difference between listening to hard rock or rap music and doing homework versus listening to a classical sonata.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TheNumber

      Hi Tony, I agree with your point – to a point. I think the way a person's mind works has a lot to do with what type of stimulation works best. I am a business owner and programmer. I listen to music throughout my workday and have experimented with listening to different types of music and books. While listening to heavy metal I find that I am far more focused and efficient – I also have much more endurance (I can work longer.) Listening to classical music (I listen to everything from black metal to classical) is calming and it does help keep me focused, but I just don't get that super-charged thought processing that I do with the harder music.

      Listening to audio books (I have listened to several hundred) is, I'm sure one would say obviously, distracting.

      September 12, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
  30. Jennifer State

    Some kids have real attention problems that we could label as "ADD" or "ADHD" while some can probably handle fast-paced shows more easily. My children aren't allowed to watch Sponge Bob, but do play some video games and the games do seem to make my boy "grumpy" and his games are more fast paced than my daughter's games. (FYI – for those dealing with children who seem to have inherent attention problems, here is a great article about managing those symptoms: http://bit.ly/nHChql )

    September 12, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Newyorker


    September 12, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Thinking7

    And parents need an article to tell them this?

    September 12, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • UseYourBrain

      Anyone with a brain can tell that most kids shows are rubbish. Tv takes away from time children could spend reading, practicing sports, playing an instrument or simply spending quality time with their parents. Unfortunately, that would entail actually PARENTING! Most people use tv as a babysitter, so they can have some peace: LAZY way out of caring for their kids.
      I am a working single mother of an only child; I cancelled cable when he arrived, and now we only get the PBS stations. My son just turned 6, attends the 2nd grade, studies Russian, French and the cello outside of school. He does his house chores, gets along great not watching tv, and is extreme eloquent for his age.
      Coincidence? I think not.

      September 12, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
  33. Tim

    This is good news and I'm so relieved....my daughter is addicted to Wonder Pets and it is soooo sloooowww and booorrring. Thanks Ling LIng and other animals names I can't remember for making my daughter smarter!

    September 12, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. betatrash

    do we really need a study for something as obvious as this? cmon, ren and stimpy? lol... what a waste of money and resources, that's all this was.

    September 12, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Tom

    legalize weed thank you

    September 12, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Rachel Humphrey

    I honestly think the dif. is we as children may have watched more aggressive shows but we only watched them on the weekends for an hour or so and some got to watch them during the week an hour a day or so. Plus we went out and played MANY hours a week, we used our minds much more than children these days. In classrooms as well as living with other children outdoors where we should have been.
    These days children watch hours a day every day of the week so the exposure to the type of shows we watched as kids was 1hr a day at most compared to 2 or 3 hours a day OR MORE today. Then on top of it the shows today are either brainless or violent. PLUS kids these day are not going outside and using their brains. In addition to the children who actually should be outside because of WANTING to be active are being given medication to sit down and sit still.
    I don't think the effect they are talking about is long term BUT if you think about it 9min. of viewing is having an effect for a few min. So hours is going to have effects for hours. Now if they are being subject to it EVERY day for hours after a while their brains are in addition to being addicted to being like that are being TRAINED to think like that. So after a few years (considering it's starting at about 2yrs old) it will have a permanent effect until at least they stop watching cartoons. By than they missed out on all the learning they SHOULD have had. Hummmm I would rather have children learning than stupid... hummm
    The only thing I don't like about the study is they did it on a show that alot of parents have an opinion about so the parents who like this show are thinking they are beating on THIS show while the parents who don't like it thinks it's all this shows fault. When in reality it's not THIS show only it's all the fast pace or ever changing shows.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Pilfer

    I didn't watch TV growing up. MY IQ is over 150 and even been estimated to be above 170. My attention span can be measured in milliseconds.

    Also, I like turtles.

    Any studies to explain this?

    September 12, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DaveNotinNWPDXToday

      Yes. Please refer to the Nerd Study of 1984 (Beyer, Mejia, et al., 1985)

      September 12, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
  38. DaveNotinNWPDXToday

    I'm not all too clear on how or why Viacom got involved in this story. I don't see the connection between Spongebob and "a certain animated kitchen sponge".

    Certainly Spongebob fits some of the criteria: he is animated and a sponge. But that's about it. I take issue with him being compared to "certain" and "kitchen".

    I think CNN has blown it and made yet another hasty jump without actually connecting any of the dots. Hey, CNN! Tune your TV to the generic channel and watch for awhile. Perhaps you'll see "a certain animated kitchen sponge show". It's on right after that "show with a comedian, his zany neighbor, bald guy, and a girl whose premise is a show about nothing".

    September 12, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. John

    Wait. You only let them watch 9 MINUTES of Sponge Bob? Maybe they did so poorly on the thinking tests because they were too busy thinking about what happened to Sponge Bob since you never let them finish the d*mn episode.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Too Much Fun

    Watch your kid while he's watching Pokemon and Bakugan. Fighting/"Battling" (only) for hours on end...
    THOSE are problem shows...
    They get SO wound up, it's like a one way video game.

    Turn of the idiot box!

    September 12, 2011 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Chaos

    Another study of 4-6 year olds conducted by the Upstairs School of Early Childhood Education found that those who watched "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" had a much higher incidence of being scare to hell than those who spent a comparable amount of time coloring on blank sheets of paper.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Stvnkrs10

    I grew up watching Cartoons as often as possible. I played video games daily, Dungeons and Dragons all through school, and listened to Heavy Metal and Rap music. I still smoke pot every day. My IQ was last tested in the upper 150's a few years back. Plus I make a lower 6 figure salary doing network security. Tell me how does that taste CNN?

    September 12, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Toxic Zebra

    I watch SpongeBob every day. I used to watch Beavis-n-Butthead with my kids – I could be a staff writer for Beavis-n-Butthead and earn $250 per hour just thinking up ideas for the series... Whoever writes Beavis-n-Butthead rules the minds of the masses.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Toxic Zebra

    Hey, who runs this rant board? How do I get my $250.00?

    September 12, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. John

    Why not conclude that kids that watched a cartoon they liked had more problems concentrating than kids that watched a boring cartoon? "I don't wanna take this test, MOAR spongebob" vs "Yay, something to do besides watch that boring coloring cartoon"

    Pathetic methodology and a subjective agenda driven result.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Frank

    Recent data inidacate that there are more than 62 million children between the ages of 0-14. A sample of 60 children cannot possibly be representative of 62 million. This study indicates that the matter should be investigated further. It implies no more, and no less.

    September 12, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. oPINion8ed

    It is sad that too many parents let the TV become a babysitter. On another note, the same can be said about too much of anything. Moderation is the key. Studies have shown too much news can cause depression. We have CNN and others on 24/7 and some people are glued to it. I am older and I like cartoons, news etc..but only so much and then I like to sit and read a good mystery novel. Sadly books are now being replaced by electronics. I will say that the internet, along with the advances in elecronics may be viewed by many as a great accomplishment in our world, where I tend to see it as scary and possibly what will ruin us. Too many culutures blending together..is it all for good puposes???? So much for the Tower of Babel......

    September 12, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Lou

    Have you guys ever seen the cartoons they show in Asia, they are more fast paced than any US cartoon yet those kids are the smartest. It has everything to do with who you parents are, not what you watch.

    September 12, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Josh

    All this study proves is that children shouldn't watch cartoons and then immediately take an exam. Let's separate the cartoon from the exam by longer than a few minutes and see if the results still holds true.

    September 12, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. ZeroHyphenOne

    I like how the reported finds some asshat (Dr. Dimitri Christakis) to seemingly confirm the legitimacy of the conclusions the reporter is drawing from the study. Never mind that a clinical pediatricians opinion is hardly the authoritative viewpoint on cognitive psychology research that should have been sought here. What I enjoy the most is the complete lack of counter point, no one to put some kind of reasonable control on just what implications are being thrown around here. This article is garbage; CNN science reporting is garbage.

    September 12, 2011 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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