I think I’m in the wrong profession. Perhaps I should give up teaching and apply for a research grant. Every day the papers are rife with some obvious or completely warped research intended in making already insecure parents feel even more uneasy about the job they are doing.
Today’s message of fear to parents is a warning to avoid letting their kids watch shows like SpongeBob SquarePants which will bring on terrible (I use that word with the greatest of sarcasm) side-effects:
Researchers say this could be because children mimic the chaotic behaviour of their favourite TV characters, or because the fast-moving and illogical cartoons make them over-excited.
In other words children enjoy the show, they respond to it in an imaginative way and it excites them. That’s a good thing, right? Well, apparently not:
Tests showed that four year-olds who watched just a few minutes of the popular television show were less able to solve problems and pay attention afterwards than those who saw a less frenetic programme or simply sat drawing.
As a result, they suggest that parents consider carefully which programmes they allow their offspring to watch, as well as encouraging them to enjoy more sedate and creative activities such as playing board games.
Angeline Lillard from the University of Virginia, who carried out the experiment, said: “Parents should know that children who have just watched SpongeBob Squarepants, or shows like it, might become compromised in their ability to learn and behave with self-control.
“Young children are beginning to learn how to behave as well as how to learn. At school, they have to behave properly, they need to sit at a table and eat properly, they need to be respectful, and all of that requires executive functions.
What is wrong with varying forms of stimulus? Sure watching too much television isn’t good for a child, but why can’t they combine drawing and board games with other activities that excite them?
Perhaps the problem is that in a bid to get children to follow rigid rules like sitting in classrooms without showing any signs of restlessness or boredom, we are instructed to take away the very pastimes which our children actually respond to?
Prof Lillard suggested: “It is possible that the fast pacing, where characters are constantly in motion from one thing to the next, and extreme fantasy, where the characters do things that make no sense in the real world, may disrupt the child’s ability to concentrate immediately afterward.
“Another possibility is that children identify with unfocused and frenetic characters, and then adopt their characteristics.”
Or perhaps kids just want something with a bit of energy and verve after a day of mat sessions and handwriting practise. Perhaps the “real world” need to adapt to kids. Perhaps we should be doing more to capture their attention rather than trying to dull their senses by making them play endless games of Monopoly.
I’ve got an idea for a research project. The effects of a balanced, nurturing, moderate and non-restictive lifestyle on children.
I’m guessing my reasearch proposal isn’t loopy enough to get funding.