If SpongeBob's Not for Preschoolers, Why Does Nickelodeon Market It to Them?

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If SpongeBob's Not for Preschoolers, Why Does Nickelodeon Market It to Them?

CCFC Urges Nickelodeon to Stop Pushing SpongeBob Merch on Young Children.

WASHINGTON - On the heels of a stunning admission by Nickelodeon that SpongeBob SquarePants is not intended for preschool audiences, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is urging Nick to stop targeting young children with a slew of licensed SpongeBob marketing and merchandise. 

On Monday, a new study in Pediatrics found that watching the fast-paced SpongeBob SquarePants has a negative influence on preschoolers' executive function.  In response, Jane Gould, the senior vice president of Consumer Insights for Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, told ABC’s Nightline that SpongeBob is “expressly designed to entertain 6-to-11-year-olds,” not preschoolers.  So parents all over the country are joining CCFC in asking Nick to stop targeting their youngest children

“Given how heavily the show is marketed to preschoolers, it’s amazing that Nickelodeon admits that SpongeBob was not created for them to watch,” said CCFC’s director Dr. Susan Linn.  “We urge Nick to practice what it preaches and stop recruiting very young children with SpongeBob licensed merchandise and fast food promotions.” 

SpongeBob SquarePants is consistently among the most-watched shows by children under six.  The show’s popularity with the preschool set is not surprising given that SpongeBob appears on thousands of licensed products designed for toddlers and preschoolers, including car seat covers, bedding, sippy cups, and footed pajamas.  In addition, both McDonald’s and Burger King have promoted the show through SpongeBob toy giveaways in their Happy Meals and Kids Meals.

“The barrage of toddler and preschool merchandise tells parents that children under six are the target audience,” said Dr. Linn.  “It’s a confusing message that increases the chances that young children will watch a show that Nickelodeon freely admits is intended for older children.”

The Pediatrics study found that watching the fast-paced SpongeBob SquarePants has a negative influence on preschoolers' executive function. Children who watched nine minutes of the show scored significantly worse on assessments designed to measure memory and self control than children who watched a slower-paced cartoon or kids who spent nine minutes drawing. 

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The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).

 

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