Like most kids, I grew up with cartoons. We have people saying that cartoons are somehow bad for you. A recent study shown in the local news cites how SpongeBob (and other cartoons) may lessen a kid’s attention span. This seemed like yet another blame game. People blame videogames, comics, rock and roll or anything that’s “in” or new to a certain generation as having negative effects.
The study mentioned in the news already has a lot of flaws. The number of participants was only 60 and then the study did not mention (as far as I know) the age of kids or how many years of watching cartoons will retain the effect of having a shorter attention span. Will suddenly stopping to watch forms of fast-paced cartoons give you a longer attention span?
I don’t really don’t want to get into the details but rather I want to just give my positive experience with these shows. I want to focus on the positive because people always want to show the negative side of things.
Looking back, one of the things that helped me be better or comfortable with the English language is cartoons. As a kid in the Philippines back in the 90s, cartoons were the most immediate sources of English. Why? Besides boring old English class at school that revolve around nouns, verbs, and sentences there wasn't really any other place to learn it. Your parents, the community, your friends (heck maybe your dog even) talk in the native tongue. An exception to the rule would probably be rich kids because they are mostly what we call “sosyal” (translated as acting rich).
Note: During my later years in high school and within these past few years, more and more programs are being introduced to practice English within the campuses. Hey we didn’t much of that when I was studying (that makes me sound so old).
Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network with shows like “Hey Arnold!”, “Scooby-Doo”, “Jetsons”, “Yogi bear” and most others like it was in English. Unlike previously popular Mexican soaps, these cartoons weren't dubbed in Tagalog. Just watching these characters have conversations helped form that familiarity with English. It seemed natural. There are two reasons why. First, based on a scientific study (which you can Google yourselves), kids pick up information like sponges. It’s said that if you want them to be good at something, you have to start kids learning early. Second, cartoons are just darn entertaining and funny. Kids are interested which we may or may not say the same about school.
Being exposed to English at a conversational pace gives you this understanding on its use. One can’t learn a language fully through a class. Learning to speak the language in the class is formal. Hardly anyone who speaks a language speaks it formally (in most uses, people speak informally to each other). Watching cartoons allowed me to be more comfortable hearing (and later speaking) English.
This is for me, your mileage may vary. My point is that there are positive effects to these things we try to blame. Not everyone who plays a violent videogame (counter-strike for example) turn out to be an expert shooter. Not everyone who heard rock and roll turned into a crazed lunatic. There are some positive effects to these sorts of things. We can’t and shouldn’t blame something just because it “seems” bad. Every person has a different experience and interpretation.
It may not hurt to expose your kids to these things. Something positive may even blossom out of it. Just be aware of what your kids or little siblings watch or are exposed to. Hey SpongeBob is better than that purple-themed pop star, right?