SO SUCK ON THAT.
Psychologists Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville examined three groups of twenty 4-year-olds — one that watched SpongeBob for nine minutes, one that watched a slow-paced PBS cartoon about a preschool-aged boy (Caillou), and one that spent nine minutes drawing with crayons — and determined that SpongeBob’s “fast-paced” format harmed the children’s “executive function” (i.e. memory, attention, and self-regulation).
From the study:
The present study found that 9 minutes of viewing a popular fast-paced fantastical television show immediately impaired 4-year-olds’ [executive function], a result about which parents of young children should be aware.
In response to a request for comment, Nickelodeon told CNN: “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.”
Despite the study’s seemingly negative conclusion, accompanying commentary [pdf] does leave open the possibility that, in the long-term, the effects of fact-paced shows might benefit those who must be adept at multitasking in order to succeed.
Then again, as the commenter notes, multitasking harms deep thinking and focus, so we’re back to square one.
tl;dr: Science say SpongeBob bad but me no see problem.
Also: Nice try, Caillou marketing department.