What I Didn’t Know Didn’t Hurt Them

Since I get so much news-worthy parenting information in my office every day, I’ve decided to write about everything I’ve done wrong as a parent over the years. Let’s start with SpongeBob SquarePants. According to a University of Virginia study, children who watch SpongeBob may have resulting inability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior. Ouch. How am I going to tell my 19-year-old that she will never reach her academic potential because of a yellow porous Porifera? At least it’s not my fault.

Apparently, a mere nine minutes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” can send 4-year-olds into a downward spiral that severely compromises their ability to learn. Of course, the little geniuses watching that catatonic “Caillou” showed no such disfunction.

I have nothing against the quiet “Caillou.” In fact, I don’t know about you, but many of the shows that I encouraged my children to watch were directly related to how much rest I could get on the couch while they were on. “Mr. Rogers” with his calm voice, cozy cardigan, and somewhat creepy neighbors was a perfect sleep-inducer. While the kids watched his homemade puppets, I could snooze. Same with “Reading Rainbow.” It was like a bedtime story, only in the middle of the afternoon.

SpongeBob, on the other hand, seems to send kids spinning out of control.

According to Angeline Lillard, the psychology professor who led the SpongeBob research, “Parents should know that children who have just watched ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ or shows like it, might become compromised in their ability to learn and behave with self-control.”

Well, what about “Power Rangers”? Is that still on? Power Rangers was popular when my kids were in preschool. Teachers had to ask parents not to let their kids watch “Power Rangers” because the kids were karate kicking each other on the playground. Of course, there was always a “message” at the end that made the violence okay. Four-year-olds don’t really get that message. They like the kicking and hitting, though. I think I prefer a squishy, yellow idiot to a violent person in a tight suit.

But, here is another dire warning about SpongeBob from Dr. Lillard: “It is possible that the fast pacing, where characters are constantly in motion from one thing to the next, and extreme fantasy, where the characters do things that make no sense in the real world, may disrupt the child’s ability to concentrate immediately afterward.”

Personally, I think the best preparation for the real world probably IS watching characters who do things that make no sense. Isn’t that the definition of the real world?

At least now I know what’s wrong with my kids. They’ve been SpongeBob-ified. If you looked inside their heads, you’d probably see a mass of spongy yellow material rather than a brain. No wonder they had to spend so much time getting extra help in math class.

In fact, we may have identified the real culprit behind our national slide in math and science — the true villain is SpongeBob SquarePants!

Categories: Editor’s Blog