Entries in Cartoons (3)


Violent Cartoons Linked to Sleep Problems in Preschoolers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Swapping Batman for Big Bird could help young kids sleep better, a new study found.

The study of sleep habits among 565 preschool-age children found that those who tuned in to age-appropriate educational programs were less likely to have sleep problems than those who watched sparring superheroes or slapstick scenes meant for slightly older kids.

"Content that's funny for older kids can be too violent for really young children," said study author Michelle Garrison from the Seattle Children's Research Institute, adding that even Bugs Bunny is "too much" for kids younger than 6.  "We really don't want them exposed to any violence at all."

Previous studies in children have linked violent videos to disrupted sleep, raising the risk of behavioral and emotional problems.  To test whether reducing exposure to violent media could improve sleep, Garrison and colleagues ran a clinical trial.  The treatment: Curious George, Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street.

"That kind of media content really models good social skills, like empathy, cooperation and problem solving," Garrison said.  "And we found that taking steps to reduce violent media produced tangible and sustained effects on sleep."

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, adds to mounting evidence that screen time -- and screen content -- can negatively impact sleep.  How exactly? The jury's still out.

"There are so many possible pathways," said Garrison, theorizing that kids exposed to less violence may find it easier to fall asleep or have fewer nightmares.  "But trying to reduce media violence is an important goal for all families.  And the good news is: There's lots of great, healthy content out there for preschool children, a lot of positive options."

Garrison recommends checking for information about media violence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is 'SpongeBob SquarePants' Making Preschoolers Slower Thinkers?

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Nickelodeon(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- He may be one of the longest-running, best-loved cartoons in Nickelodeon history, but SpongeBob SquarePants is getting no love from child psychologists.

According to research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, watching fast-paced cartoons like SpongeBob, even for just a few minutes, hinders abstract thinking, short-term memory and impulse control in preschoolers.

Led by University of Virginia psychologist Angeline Lillard, researchers randomly assigned 60 four-year-olds to three activities: drawing freely with markers for nine minutes; watching a slower-paced, PBS cartoon for that time; or watching SpongeBob SquarePants.  Researchers chose SpongeBob for its frenetic pace: The show switches scenes on average every 11 seconds, as compared with the PBS cartoon, which switched only twice a minute.

Afterward, the preschoolers were asked to do four different "executive function" tasks that test cognitive capability and impulse control, such as counting backwards, solving puzzles, and delaying gratification by waiting to eat a tasty snack until told to do so.  Compared with those who were drawing and those watching PBS, the SpongeBob kids performed significantly worse on the tasks.

Study authors note that it's hard to say what it was about the adventures of this friendly kitchen sponge that seemed to have such an immediate negative effect on kids, but they suspected it was the fantastical events and rapid pacing of the show.  By contrast, the PBS show was slower and exhibited real life events about a preschool-age boy.

Parents and pediatricians have often commented that the frenzied pace of many kids' cartoons today make kids distracted and kill their attention spans.

"This is something we have known for quite sometime, but this is elegant research that puts science behind what we think," says Dr. David Rosenberg, chief of child psychiatry and psychology at Wayne State University.

The blame shouldn't fall exclusively on the square shoulders of this kindly sea sponge.  All fast-paced, fantastical kids' shows are called into question.

Nickleodeon, the makers of SpongeBob, defended the cartoon, pointing out that the study looked only at white middle- to upper-class kids.  The study subjects were also only four -- two years younger than the target SpongeBob audience.

"Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted demo, watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology.  It could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust," David Bittler, a representative for Nickleodeon, told ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cartoons on Food Boxes Create Nagging Children

PRNewsFoto/Nickelodeon(BALTIMORE) -- It's a tried-and-true marketing method: Slap a famous cartoon on food boxes and odds are children will be more likely to seek the food out at the store. But research now suggests that silly cartoons appearing on food boxes may also determine whether children will pester their mothers to buy the food and also the level of nagging parents are likely to experience.

Researchers analyzed surveys and interviews from 64 mothers who had children between the ages of three and five. The mothers were asked questions about family eating and shopping habits, their use of media and how they dealt with their children's nagging.

The study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, found that packaging, characters and commercials all contributed to whether children pestered their mothers. The children who watched more television commercials were more likely to nag for foods that included cartoons on the packaging, even if they didn't like the food, researchers said.

"She picks up the characters by osmosis," one mother who took part in the study said of her four-year-old daughter.

The bind that many parents face is that many of the foods that advertise popular characters are oftentimes not healthy, said Dina Borzekowski, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-author of the study.

"We know marketing works, so the trick is to make it work for healthier products," said Borzekowski.

Another mother of a four-year-old boy said, "It really became clear to me how much TV impacts his preferences when he asked me to go to Burger King and I said, 'Why Burger King?' and he replied he had seen it on TV."

While researchers did not cite specific packages, mothers who were interviewed said the characters or commercials that drew the most attention were Dora the Explorer, Elmo, SpongeBob and Scooby Doo.

But the so-called "nag factor" didn't stop there. The children who watched the most commercial TV also engaged almost equally in different types of nagging -- juvenile nagging, nagging to test boundaries and manipulative nagging.

Juvenile nagging consists of repeatedly asking for items, whining and even flailing arms and stomping feet. Children nagged to test boundaries by throwing a public tantrum and putting items in the cart even as their mother said no. Manipulative nagging consists of sweet-talking the mother, or even saying that other children possessed the item.

"Our study indicates that manipulative nagging and overall nagging increased with age," Holly Henry, a co-author of the study and a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins, said in a statement. Mothers of five-year-olds recalled more negative nagging experiences, researchers said.

"It's been a battle with my child," said one mother. "No reward in whining." "Giving in was consistently cited as one of the least effective strategies," said Henry.

Thirty-six percent of the mothers studied dealt with the nagging by limiting their child's exposure to commercials. And researchers said that may be one of the most effective ways to limit a child's nagging and consumption of potentially unhealthy foods.

Researchers also suggested not going to the store with a child, or trying to explain to a child before heading out why they would be tempted to buy certain types of foods and avoid buying others.

"I don't think marketing is going away anytime soon, said Borzekowski. "We need to help parents deal with the current situation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio