Parents should not despair about the amount of TV their kids are watching, as a study has found shows like SpongeBob SquarePants are not harming children's brains.
A paper published by the University of Otago on Thursday has found that the fast and fantastical nature of children's shows does not impact on a children's memory, self-regulation or ability to problem solve.
Otago psychology professor Dr Damian Scarf says parents should not be troubled about the form of media their children choose to watch.
"Parents need not be concerned about letting their child watch SpongeBob or any other children's programmes that appear to be fast-paced. These programmes may not have any educational content but they also do no harm,'' he says.
Academics have been studying how the pace of media - such as quick scene changes - effects children's executive function since the 1970s.
Dr Scarf says it is important for parents to have the right information in which to make informed decisions about their children's consumption habits.
Dr Scarf and co-author Ashley Hinten will next investigate why some studies report a negative effect of fast-paced media while others report a null effect.
"One recent finding suggested it was the fantastical nature of SpongeBob that may have the potential to temporarily tax children's executive function, i.e. young children might find watching a talking sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea quite demanding, given they don't generally see talking sponges in real life.
"It is important to note that taxing the executive function is not a bad thing. You would likely get the same effect if your child worked on a difficult puzzle. This is something we plan to test."
The study was published in the medical journal, Pediatrics.
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