CogniFit's Science blog: The Negative Implications Of Some Cartoons On Your Child’s Cognition

The Negative Implications Of Some Cartoons On Your Child’s Cognition

Every child loves cartoons. Some prefer Mickey Mouse while others enjoy Sesame Street. As parents, it is our job to provide them with a learning environment while keeping them entertained at the same time. And researchers now report that some cartoons full of energy might have a negative effect on your child’s cognition.

A controlled study compared kids who watched the fast-paced SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon for nine minutes with those who did not. The results found children who did watch SpongeBob did worse off on tests of attention and cognition than those who spent the same amount of time drawing.

In addition to this, kids who watched SpongeBob performed worse than kids who watched a more realistic, slower-paced educational cartoon about a pre-school boy. As a result, it has many doctors and researchers questioning fast-paced cartoons and the negative effects it can have on kids and their attention.

There is no questioning the benefits that can come from Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street and other educational cartoons. They are loaded with information and material to help children learn words, colors, numbers and much more.

But parents need to be aware of the negative effects that such fast-paced cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants can provide. With each scene shifting on average about five times a minute, it can actually temporarily impair their function.

As for the length of the effects, researchers do not know if older children’s cognition is affected the same way or not. Are the effects transient and does the child’s age really matter? At this point all is just speculation based off of the single study that has been conducted.

What does have researchers concerned is that children showed a drastic decrease in cognition after just nine minutes of the show. This is far less than a complete episode typically is on TV and many kids watch hours of television every day. So how much of an effect could three, four or even five hours of SpongeBob and related television shows have on children?

Initial research and findings are troubling, but it does not mean that every age or every child will take away the same aspects of the show. And who knows if fast-paced cartoons mixed with educational ones counteract each other. For now, one can only speculate and take in what evidence has been provided knowing more research around brain fitness, more studies and more time will be put into the topic down the road.