I was born in 1963 - do the math already, I don’t even care anymore! On Saturday mornings my siblings and I would literally make a beeline from our beds to the front of the television set where we would watch, on a very small black and white set, all the Saturday morning cartoons. We were not picky. If it was on, we watched it. Later, when our parents had enough money for a color set, it got even better.
Maybe our parents were terrible people for allowing us to watch these shows and maybe, as parents ourselves, we continued the terribly tradition. If that’s the case, then I know many other terrible parents who, by the way, have smart, well-adjusted, funny kids.
Those cartoons were funny. The characters could do things that humans couldn’t. A certain little hunter with a speech impediment was always chasing a smart-alecky wabbit around and somehow that wabbit always managed to get away. A certain spitting, lispy duck was always getting his bill blown to the other side of his face, only to be back to normal in the next frame.
Kids and adults enjoyed every minute. We couldn’t get enough. Some would say that the cartoons were violent. Sure, I can see that now, but I could not see that as a child and my children could not see it either. Millions of children watched those cartoons and I think it’s probably safe to say most of them turned out just fine.
Fast forward to 2011 where yesterday I read an article* that said that researchers have concluded that watching a few minutes of SpongeBob SquarePants, as little as nine minutes, could cause “short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds;” that kids should not watch these programs if they are expected to have to pay attention shortly after watching. This is a joke, right?
I’ll disclose the already obvious fact that I’m not a researcher, scientist or doctor just so there’s no confusion, but as a human, a parent, and a former kid I have to say that this sounds ridiculous. When did we become such weenies? When did we go from children watching a funny show (that also happened to be violent) and then going about their day normally, to children watching a funny show and having problems with concentration and learning? What is the difference between then and now? I say nothing. And I would argue that the SpongeBob cartoons are much less violent than anything I watched as a child.
SpongeBob is one of the sweetest characters on television today. He’s funny, silly, caring and sometimes “not all there” when it comes to understanding the world around him - just like real kids. To say that watching just nine minutes of this show will somehow cause our children to experience problems with attention makes these researchers sound like a bunch of Krabby Patties.
Let’s allow our kids to be kids for the love of God, before it’s too late. Let’s remember that even a four-year-old child can learn something from SpongeBob. His friendship with Patrick is one of the great television friendships of all time. He loves everyone, even Squidward. He doesn’t give up, even after all these years of trying to get his boating license and failing. He’s a hard worker and is always happy to go above and beyond no matter what the situation.
I don’t know what the normal attention span of a child is but I can tell you that I’ve spent enough time in my children’s classrooms over the years to notice that children, especially 4-year-olds, are easily distracted by just about anything. I have a feeling that’s normal… just look at adults with cell phones. I’m just sayin’.
SpongeBob, you're okay in my book. I've got to go see which episode is on next. You should do the same and be a kid again or a few minutes.
Th, th, th, th, th, that’s all folks!
Until next time… stay cool!
*Article on the Fox News website is from Associated Press. Or just Google “SpongeBob SquarePants and attention and learning" for countless other articles.