Thinkertry

Cartoons These Days

September 17, 2011
Fun · Stories

According to a recent study:

9 minutes of viewing a popular fast-paced fantastical television show (Spongebob Squarepants) immediately impaired 4-year-olds’ [executive function], a result about which parents of young children should be aware.

I bet kids do have a hard time concentrating after watching just 9 minutes of Spongebob; I’d probably be thinking about how the show ended too if I were them. Did they stop the show right at the commercial break? Yeah, that’s painful.

To be fair, the scientists did acknowledge that other factors that may have affected the kids’ performance; but I don’t doubt that cartoons these days are borderline harmful for young, developing minds…

Let’s look at the last few generations of cartoons:

I grew up with Rugrats. It was a good show that the whole family could watch together and enjoy. There wasn’t a lot of sarcasm or crude humor, just a bunch of babies exploring, meeting new characters, and going to new places. Doug was also pretty good, and there was usually some sort of lesson that could be gleaned from each episode.

Spongebob came a bit later. It’s also a good show (except for the episode where Spongebob repeatedly hits a health inspector with a shovel and puts him into the trunk of a car, that was weird), although it probably got a bit nuttier as the series aged. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was airing at around the same time, and that was pretty good too; it sparked the imagination.

And now there’s Boohbah:

What the heck is this? It’s targeted toward toddlers, but what on Earth does it teach? They fall down, and then get back up, then fall again, oh, and then they get back up, ha, oh wait and then they start dancing! And then a rainbow wave comes along and in the distance a boy declares, “Beeaauubaaaah” as the Boohbahs fly up into the heavens and squeeze their obese bodies into some sort of furry cocoon. Then the cocoon starts to spin and they all fly off into the distance and that’s it.

Sometimes a kid exclaims to the Boobahs flying around in the clouds, “look what I can do!” and they demonstrate how they can do things like jump, spin around, and lay down (just like the Boohbahs!). Those are some great skills, for sure, but I think a toddler should be learning a lot more than how to be a good Boohbah.

I kind of worry what the Boohbah generation of kids will be like when they grow up. Whenever there’s an office meeting, are they going to make strange noises as they “fly” to the conference room? Or maybe yell, “Beebah, Whew!” when they want their boss to disappear into a rainbow cloud?

Ugh. I feel like an Andy Rooney. I guess the good news is that the show is more popular in the UK, so that’s good, I guess. It also makes for some good parodies.

… And what’s a Boohbah anyway? Who came up with that?