Study explores relationship between children's cartoon consumption and attention, cognition

Source: ABC News; Pediatrics, September 2012

A recent study from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville found that four year olds who spend nine minutes drawing pictures did better on tests of attention and cognition than children of the same age who spent the time watching fast-paced cartoons.

Sixty four year olds were randomly assigned to draw for nine minutes or to watch a fast-paced cartoon (Sponge Bob Square Pants) or an educational cartoon (a realistic Public Broadcasting Service cartoon about a typical U.S. preschool-aged boy). The parents also completed surveys regarding their children’s TV viewing and attention habits.

Children who watched SpongeBob SquarePants performed significantly worse on executive function tasks than children in the other two groups, even after controlling for child attention, age, and TV exposure. Researchers believe there could be a link between fast-paced cartoons and lower levels of concentration due to brain exhaustion.

While previous studies have found a connection between TV watching and lower attention span in preschoolers, this new research suggests that only a few minutes of exposure might cause an acute problem in levels of concentration.