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The Cartoon that is shown to Immediately Impair Brain Function….
& Which Kids TV Shows We Watch Instead
In 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study called “The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function”. Executive functions are the set of skills which include the ability to control one’s attention, stay focused on specific instructions, and wait for a reward (“delayed gratification”). AKA – important stuff for kids to learn in order to grow up and be productive citizens.
This is how the researchers set up the study:
The preschool aged children were split into 3 groups
Group 1 watched a nine-minute segment of a “fast-paced television show” (easily identifiable as Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants”)
Group 2 watched a nine-minute segment of an “educational television show” (identified as the PBS show “Caillou”)
Group 3 got to draw with crayons and markers for nine minutes.
Then each group was asked to complete activities that measure executive functioning skills.
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The group that watched Spongebob showed immediate decline in executive functions.
The other two groups did not demonstrate this decline – and there was no difference between those two groups – meaning that watching Caillou had the same impact on the kid’s brains as drawing with regard to executive function skills.
The authors of the study concluded :
“Just 9 minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-olds’ executive function.
Parents should be aware that fast-paced television shows could at least temporarily impair young children’s executive function.”
I remember when I was pregnant thinking that I would definitely not let my child watch TV until she was like 5. Fast-forward almost 9 years and I am a fulltime working mother who has created a blog focused on balance. Guess what – my first kid, and my second have definitely watched TV because sometimes mama needs to take a shower!
Honestly, allowing my children to have screen time has created additional balance in our home. In the early days I was putting so much pressure on myself to do everything perfectly – that I literally began to crack. Getting to the breaking point forced me to ease up on the expectations I was putting on myself. So, yes we do allow our children to watch TV but we carefully curate what they are watching. This creates a win-win situation for everyone. The kiddos get their “screen time fix”, I get periodic breaks throughout the day to tend to grown up responsibilities AND they are watching programs that we, as a family have deemed appropriate.
“Being and feeling successful as a parent is all about finding balance and sometimes we all need tools like this to help create that moment to catch our breath, collect our thoughts or just complete a task on our to do list.”
So what is a parent to do with regard to kids tv shows?
The current American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines in 2016 for Children’s Media Use:
Among the AAP recommendations:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
As stated before, allowing our children to watch what the AAP refers to as “high quality programming” has been a key to keeping our sanity as a parents. Over the years we have found dozens of kids tv shows that not only keep the kids entertained, but that are also educational. Here is a list of kids programs that our family enjoys watching. You will notice a much “slower” pace with most of these programs, vs the fast pace of programs like Spongebob, which is the main focus that the researchers focused on in the study. (this section contains affiliate links)
The Best Kids TV Shows (that we have found)
Caillou (Free Seasons with Amazon Prime)
Daniel Tiger (Free Seasons with Amazon Prime)
Reading Rainbow (Free Seasons with Amazon Prime)
Mr Rogers (Free Seasons with Amazon Prime)
Sid the Science Kid (Netflix)
Curious George (Hulu)
Max and Ruby (NickJr.com)
Popular Mechanics for Kids (Free with Amazon Prime)
Magic School Bus (Netflix)
Disney’s American Legends (Available for purchase on Amazon)
An American Girl Story (multiple movies) (Free with Amazon Prime)
Chopped Junior (The Food Network)
Kids Baking Championship (The Food Network)
Rachel Ray’s Kids Cookoff (The Food Network)
The Great British Baking Show (Full episodes available at PBS.org)
Obviously, you will still need to decide for yourself if these programs are appropriate for your family. These have become our go-to kids tv shows over the years. The kids enjoy watching them on their own and we also enjoy watching them together as a family.
We would love to hear from you! What kids programs does your family enjoy? Please comment below!