Can Spongebob Cause ADHD in Children?

I have always been a huge fan of the show Spongebob Squarepants. I mean after all who couldn’t love this adorable little sponge?


My aunt despises the show and would not let her kids watch it for the life of her.  She proclaimed that the show “gives kids ADHD” and I nearly laughed in her face because in my mind there was no mechanism or causation for thinking that, after-all, my sister and I had been watching the show since we were babies.  Heck, we literally told time via SpongeBbob episodes, and we turned out fine and neither of us suffer from ADHD. As I was deciding what to write about, I thought this would be an interesting question to investigate because my aunt had to of heard this accusation from somewhere.  It turns out there actually was a study done by a psychologist at the University of Virginia.  The head and author of this study, psychologist Angeline Lillard, randomly allocated sixty 4 year old and or preschool aged children to three different groups to perform three different tasks.  Each group had the children doing a different task than the other group, the first group had to watch a program of SpongeBob Squarepants, the second group was to watch the educational program Caillou, and the last group was just told to draw. In my opinion,there is no need for the third grouping of children whom are drawing because to me this experiment only calls for a control group and an experimental group.  Directly after the activities the children were assigned, they were told to perform four different tasks there were put in place to measure their impulsiveness and ability to recall information to see if watching a faster paced television program really would have an affect or not on a child.  The test to measure their impulsiveness was how long they were able to resist a snack and they were also told to solve some puzzles.  The results were immediately recognizable to Angeline Lillard where the children who had watched SpongeBob did significantly worse on the assessment.  I think this experiment was done rather well, but it is obvious there are some confounding third variables that are playing a huge role in the outcome of this experiment which Angeline Lillard even explicitly mentions in her results.  The frantic pace of many children cartoons, specifically SpongeBob, cause the childrens’ minds to go a little haywire trying to make connections to real world life events they have experienced, but the events in SpongeBob are typically unrealistic or not something they have experienced before which makes it hard to comprehend.


As far as SpongeBob giving kids ADHD, it is pretty safe to say that is not accurate.  I think these results could very well be a false positive due to the fact that there are little other studies purely directed towards such a specific analysis.  Also, it is obvious that educational programming would present a better outcome educationally for children rather than cartoon.  Also this particular article sheds light on the fact that the program SpongeBob is not intended for a four year old audience but more of a six to eleven year old audience therefore it makes sense why the show would have a negative/confusing affect on children below that age range. I do not think it matters what program the child is watching, it is more so the fact of how much television the child is watching that can wreak havoc on their intelligence level or susceptibility to ADHD or any other disorder.


2 thoughts on “Can Spongebob Cause ADHD in Children?

  1. Celine Degachi

    I never considered Spongebob, or any other cartoon, affecting the intelligence of kids. We definitely can’t go as far as claiming that Spongebob can give kids ADHD but it’s interesting to see that the kids that took the exam did worse. A big flaw that I see that could arise is the accuracy of using this test as a measurement of intelligence. I found an article that explores television generally and how it effects the youth. It specifically found that exposing children to TV before the age of 2 can actually negatively affect their growth. You should check it out.

  2. Robert McCarthy

    Interesting read, my mother used to say that watching “Ed, Edd, and Eddy” as a child was making me stupid. Well I’m here at Penn State so I’m glad to have proven her wrong! My interest is in why specifically SpongeBob was chosen as the show to give children ADHD. After all, there is a plethora of children’s programs out there, why was SpongeBob the one targeted? My theory has to do with the comedic styling of the show. Many of the jokes are based off of non-sequiters, or jokes that have more of a “random” approach to comedy. By using these jokes, perhaps parents believe that their child will not focus on the storyline but rather on the side jokes told on the show. Again, just a theory, but it’s curious as to why our absorbent, yellow, and porous friend was the subject of this scrutiny.

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