SpongeBob SquarePants impairs brain function in preschoolers

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And here I thought Keeping Up With The Kardashians was the only thing on television that could actually make you stupider. Well, as it turns out, SpongeBob SquarePants, an animated Nickelodeon show beloved the world over by hyperactive children and young-at-heart (read: stoned) adults, actively impairs cognitive function in four-year-olds.

Researchers at the University of Virginia randomly assigned sixty four-year-olds to one of three groups: one that watched nine minutes of a "very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea," one that watched nine minutes of of a PBS show "about a typical U.S. preschool-aged boy," and a third group that was asked to draw for nine minutes with markers and crayons.

After their "tasks" were completed, the children were asked to perform tests designed to assess their executive functions, a skill set that includes attention, working memory, problem solving, and delay of gratification, and is typically associated with success in school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the group that watched SpongeBob did significantly worse on the tests.

Interestingly enough, the other two groups' scores were relatively comparable, meaning that public television is apparently boring enough to be good for you. 

One of the study authors did note that SpongeBob shouldn't be unfairly singled out — the show was just selected as indicative of the class of hyperactive, fast-paced programming that the study was examining.

Nickelodeon had this to say 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." 

They continued, noting that SpongeBob is intended for children six to eleven, not preschoolers, and that  the high level of plot and character development that SpongeBob has long been known for is completely wasted on four-year olds.