According to TheWrap.com, a new study to be published online Monday by the medical journal Pediatrics claims that watching just nine minutes of 'SpongeBob' had a negative effect on the attention span of four-year-olds.
Using what it calls a "controlled experimental design," the American Academy of Pediatrics said its study found that preschool-aged children "were significantly impaired in executive function immediately after watching just nine minutes of a popular fast-paced television show relative to after watching educational television or drawing."
Prof. Angeline Lillard, who carried out the experiment, said that researchers found that the ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behaviour in children who had watched 'SpongeBob' was "severely compromised."
Prof. Lillard added: "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."
In a statement, Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler said: "Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted demo, watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust."
It's not the first time the show's been in hot water. In 2005 it came under fire from Christian Right group Focus on the Family, which said the cartoon's tolerance themes were really code for gay-agenda promotion. And last month Fox News personalities Steve Doocy and Gretchen Carlson slammed it for teaching children about man-made global warming.