Caillou wins! At least, that is, in a recent study of 60 kids done by researchers at the University of Virginia for the journal Pediatrics. The study found that kids who watched 9 minutes of Caillou as opposed to Spongebob did better on mental tests immediately following the TV viewing. The kids who were assigned to watch Spongebob performed remarkably worse than the kids who were assigned Caillou. It is a small study, but it brings up the question of how TV shows affect the brains of children for better or for worse.
What’s the difference? Caillou is very slow paced, while Spongebob is extremely fast-paced. People can debate over the relevance of Caillou verses Spongebob in the content of the plots and material (I personally think Spongebob, while funny, is extremely bizarre and requires a certain “mood” of humor when you watch it).
Here is a report on the study from a news source: http://children.webmd.com/news/20110909/fast-paced-cartoons-may-hurt-kids-attention-memory
I wonder how this applies to Children’s Ministry in the church setting. When I heard of this study, I immediately thought about the puppet-driven “What’s in the Bible?” DVD we often show our Preschoolers at Commonwealth Chapel for the final few minutes of class before the parents come for pick up (they have a human-taught interactive curriculum for the majority of their class time). I also thought about some of the fast-paced multimedia we use as tools on Sunday morning for kids. How much of those are useful tools and how much are detracting from our worship of the invisible infinite God?
I’ve always tended towards the side of the spectrum that uses less multimedia on Sunday mornings (because children have enough of that already throughout the week). I’ve seen some good multimedia tools out there (Timbuktoons comes to mind), which I have used in ministry, so I’m not opposed to it altogether.
What about you? What kind of multimedia do you use in Children’s Ministry? What is a litmus test to know whether a particular multimedia tool is helpful or otherwise distracting? Do you think multimedia itself is simply neutral and amoral?