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Is 'SpongeBob' Too Much for Young Minds?
Date:9/12/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Fast-paced TV shows like "SpongeBob SquarePants" seem to negatively affect children's concentration levels shortly after watching it, while slower-paced shows don't, a new study suggests.

"We found that young children who had just watched 'SpongeBob SquarePants' were handicapped in what you could say is their readiness for learning," said lead researcher Angeline S. Lillard, a University of Virginia psychologist.

"This included their ability to think and concentrate," she said.

Lillard added that this effect is not confined to "SpongeBob SquarePants," a cartoon set beneath the sea. "We have replicated this now with another fast-paced fantastical show," she said.

Lillard said she got the idea for the study while watching "SpongeBob SquarePants" in anticipation for using it for a different study. "I found it difficult to think after having watched episodes of it for an hour," she said. "That's what inspired me to do the study."

For children, such fast-paced, bizarre programming may be too taxing for their developing brains, Lillard said.

"When children have to process a lot of information very quickly, it is difficult to process because it's unusual. In this case [SpongeBob episodes] a lot of things are happening that can't happen in real life," she explained. "We think it leaves them mentally exhausted -- at least for a short time."

How long these effects might last isn't known, Lillard added. "We don't know if these effects build over time and create long-term attention problems, but we do know at least immediately afterward they are compromised in their ability to function," she said.

There have been other studies that show a connection between television watching and attention problems later in life, Lillard noted.

For the study, published online Sept. 12 in the journal Pediatrics, Lillard a
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