Being glued to fast-paced unreal TV shows might severely compromise a child’s learning skills, US psychologists say.
University of Virginia psychologists tested four-year-old children immediately after they had watched nine minutes of the popular show “SpongeBob SquarePants”.
They found that their ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior, had been severely compromised, compared to four-year-olds who had either watched nine minutes of “Caillou”, a slower-paced, realistic public TV show, or had spent nine minutes drawing.
“There was little difference on the tests between the drawing group and the group that watched Caillou,” said lead investigator Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor in Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, the journal Paediatrics reports.
“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,” Lillard said, according to a Virginia statement.
“Another possibility is that children identify with unfocused and frenetic characters, and then adopt their characteristics,” the journal further quoted Lillard as saying.
“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,” added Lillard.
Lillard and her co-author, graduate student Jennifer Peterson, said that four-year-olds are in an important development stage and that what they watch on TV may have lasting effects on their lifelong learning and behaviours.