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‘SpongeBob’ should be just the start of warnings of unhealthy TV

Updated: November 10, 2011 10:08AM

It was difficult.

But I had to tell my 4-year-old granddaughter: “No more SpongeBob SquarePants.”

She looked at me like I had lost my mind. But what else can I do when researchers suggest that just nine minutes of watching the buck-tooth, square-headed character can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.

No way am I going to let a talking sponge sabotage my grand-baby’s education. I don’t want to brag, but she’s just the smartest 4-year-old in the universe. Her 11-year-old brother dismissed my concern as “weird” and went back to his text-messaging.

But I’m not kidding. The study looked at 60 children and found that those who watched “SpongeBob” did measurably worse on mental function tests than those who watched “Caillou,” a slower-moving cartoon.

“SpongeBob” has been around since 1999. Although a spokesman for Nickelodeon claims the cartoon is aimed at kids 6-11, parents know better than that. By the time a child gets out of kindergarten, it is just about over for SpongeBob. By then, the damage is apparently done.

Still, researchers caution against panic, and remind us that “media exposure” is a public health issue.

But children aren’t the only ones at risk.

Now that researchers have tackled “SpongeBob,” I hope they turn their attention to shows like “The Bad Girls Club. ”

I mean how much of this genre is hazardous to the female psyche?

I stumbled across this reality TV program while I was bored and trolling through cable TV. When it got to “The Bad Girls Club,” I didn’t click fast enough. Before I knew it, I was sucked in.

This is the show’s seventh season. Viewers watch seven young women do out loud what most young women would be ashamed of doing behind closed doors.

Given the amount of time the girls spend strutting around in their underwear, I get why men would watch the show. But these are the type of women other women hate. These women don’t just talk trash, they get in your face.

On this week’s show, two of the bad girls got into a weave-pulling catfight. Throughout the episode, the women cursed like street walkers. Although the women are all over 21, high schoolers have better self-control.

OK. They are bad girls. But since when do bad girls get to live like divas. I know this is what passes for entertainment these days, but could programs like “The Bad Girls Club” and, all right, “Jersey Shore,” chip away at a young person’s moral core.

After all, some recent local news involving young women is shocking.

This week, 18-year-old Keananna Streeter was charged with first-degree murder in an attack on her 32-year-old romantic rival. According to police, Streeter sprayed her ex-boyfriend with Mace, and threw a bottle at the car before stabbing Ragan McDougle multiple times. Streeter was apparently upset that her ex-boyfriend was not helping her with their child. Streeter has no criminal background.

And police are still searching for the hit-and-run driver who killed Mandeep Bedi in a road rage incident late last month.

After Bedi and his wife, Elizabeth, got involved in one of those “I’m-not-going-to-let-you-over” incidents, the female driver of the other car chased the couple down. Elizabeth got out of her car and argued with the woman. At some point Bedi must have gotten out of the car as well, because according to the police, the unidentified woman put her car in reverse and completely ran over Bedi. His wife was also injured in the attack.

Obviously, these are extreme cases, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that reality TV is to blame for such aberrant behavior.

But a lot of the inappropriate behavior that goes on in public places these days mimics what we see on reality shows. Just like some teens try to emulate rappers in their dress and behavior, the same is true for “bad girls.”

This show also gives a distorted picture of what it takes to live the good life. After all, these wannabes are sleeping in a mansion they can’t pay for, shopping on someone else’s credit card and partying on the house’s tab.

Most people know these party girls are living a bogus lifestyle, but the program’s message is so disturbing, the impact of this genre is worth exploring.

After all, who would have thought “SpongeBob SquarePants” could mess up a kid’s mind.

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