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Psychologist weighs in on negative 'SpongeBob' study of 4-year-olds

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Sep. 13, 2011 at 5:00 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The damage done to young brains by Spongebob Squarepants and other fast-paced cartoons is still a hot topic.

Dr. Loretta Rudd, and educational psychologist at the University of Utah, is not surprised by results published in the Journal "Pediatrics". A researcher herself, Rudd says the study makes sense given all we know about the brains of young children.

"Once there's overstimulation or there's just a lot of information coming, in for that developing brain to sort it out is obviously, from this study, is difficult," she said.

In the study, 4-year-olds were allowed to color, watch a slow-paced animated TV show or watch a fast-paced cartoon. Researchers picked "Spongebob Squarepants" for the fast paced show and "Caillou" for the slow passed show. After 9 minutes, researchers tested each group of kids for their ability to focus and solve problems.

Perhaps the most alarming piece of information to Rudd is that kids' brains could be so affected after just nine minutes of exposure.

Those who watched "Spongebob" performed significantly worse.

"Absolutely. This is what I intuitively have been thinking as a teacher, educator and an educational psychologist," Rudd said.

Perhaps the most alarming piece of information to Rudd is that kids' brains could be so affected after just nine minutes of exposure. This is especially concerning when you think about the time many kids spend watching these kinds of programs each day.

"That surely leads to negative effects in terms of their school readiness (and) their ability to attend to information," Rudd said

But there is some good news. Parents who spoke with KSL in Utah County already monitor the kinds of programs their kids watch.

"I myself find them over-stimulating, so I assume they're too much for my kids," said Kathy Christianen.

Bret Graham said that he was actually "surprised it took a study to find that out."

Rudd would like to see this kind of research extend beyond television programs. Her suggestion: Daycares and early childhood centers that come with a lot of audio and visual stimulation that might also disrupt young brains.

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