Te Ra Waldorf School asks that parents keep their children’s viewing of TV, movies and videos and electronic game playing to a minimum. In the case of younger children (< 9) it would be ideal if the regular possibility for such exposure is removed altogether. In the case of older children we ask that they do not watch teenage or adult-themed programmes or films.
We also ask that children do not have unsupervised access to the internet at any age during their primary schooling.
While we respect your autonomy it is important for us to help to develop and promote a consistent approach to this issue among the peer groups.
As a school we take the following approach:
- Screens and other electronic aids are not normally used in the classroom. Any exceptions (e.g. projection) must be approved by the College of Teachers.
- We will include in the annual plan a ‘screen-free month’ for the whole school (and including the kindergartens) at a time agreed on by the class and kindergarten teachers. This will be a voluntary exercise but naturally families will be warmly encouraged to participate.
- Screen exposure and alternatives will be part of our annual parent education as well as our parent information meetings.
- Our standpoint on screen exposure will be specifically mentioned in the enrolment process.
We appreciate your support with this issue. Please refer to Part 2 of this statement for further information about the aspects of this issue which are particularly relevant to us as a Waldorf school.
It is not generally recognised that the first issue around television viewing is not the content but the medium itself. The Emery report (Australian National University) established that no matter what the program is, human brain wave activity enters characteristic patterns. Data is ‘received’ at a rate nerve pathways cannot cope with; this is particularly true in the case of young children. There is a deadening of thought life. The viewer becomes relatively passive or ‘spaces out’. Active attention and the critical faculty are suppressed. After constant exposure to this process, the capacity of the organic system is dulled.
1. Much modern TV and film content portrays violence (physical, emotional, social, racial, and verbal). This provides negative role modelling and a view of a world which is anything but ‘good’.
2. Children are burdened with a flood of images and facts beyond their capacity for healthy assimilation and inner transformation.
In this respect, selective viewing, discussion and training in discrimination are not able to fully eliminate difficulties. The young child lacks the critical faculty and inner detachment. It is not just a matter of training but of innate disposition. It is natural for children to be affected by the images they take in. The young child’s brain acts like a sponge.
3. Exposure to TV programmes, movies and advertising can raise unreal expectations and unnecessary social challenges.
Imagination, Fixed and Free
One of the key aims in our method of education is to help the child toward developing the faculty of free imagination. So, for example, we generally tell stories without offering printed pictures. Our words provide the raw materials; the child has to ‘clothe’ the story with their own images. Television hinders the development of free imagination. TV images for the young child are reality, they cannot yet separate what they see from what they internalise. The natural development of the child’s imagination, therefore, is being inhibited. This may have long term repercussions, for it is the imaginative child who, later in life, will become creative and develop individual initiative. (See Rudolph Steiner’s lecture 2 ‘Kingdom of Childhood’)
Our teaching involves a three-day rhythm: telling a story one day, recalling it the next and writing about it on the third (or a similar progression over three days in other subjects). Sleeping on what they have received during the day and returning to develop it can be fruitless if there has been screen interference.
Children first need to regurgitate screen images they have received in order to process them and this can be manifest through their artwork, movements, speech and deeds. As well as creating stumbling blocks for healthy physical development screen exposure can hamper children’s ability to live into what they have learned (experienced) at school.
Brain Hemispheres, left and right
The process of viewing interferes with the development of harmonious communication between the two brain hemispheres. The left hemisphere, which deals with conceptual and logical skills, is particularly weakened.
Time Robbery: Aberrations in Children’s Play: The Senses
Children’s play patterns have changed dramatically in recent years; children in general play less. Play is often chaotic and sometimes violent.
Play is a child’s ‘work’. Free play develops faculties of creativity, imagination, and initiative.
Play is the key factor in the development of the lower senses (i.e. touch, movement and balance). A sound development of the lower senses is required before the higher senses may healthily unfold.
Lack of play experience may cause organic dysfunction (senses underdeveloped, retained reflexes, neurological disorders between left and right hemispheres). Rhythmical movement, as exercised in healthy play, assists in the building of nerve myelination, essential for bodily and mental functioning. Play is an integrating process for the child, both bodily, psychologically and socially. TV, computer games, and video rob children of the time to play.
It is possible that a child’s behaviour and learning patterns are affected by screen time (viewing and playing). Children may be nervous, easily fatigued and have a low attention span.
There are of course social (family) circumstances involved in the TV issue; what can be done when a teenage sibling insists on viewing something inappropriate for the younger child? What happens when they visit friends and neighbours? These questions need to be considered in the light of the age of the child, the information here, and other factors affecting the child’s development.
We are able to help, provide support and suggest strategies if required.
Issues at School and in our School Community
Many parents have chosen a Waldorf education for their child because of the emphasis placed on recognising and working with child development in a health-giving way. Our whole curriculum and everything we do is specific to the needs of the child. Screen exposure not only has an adverse effect on the child, but indirectly on the other children in the class. Many parents endeavour to limit or avoid screen exposure and it can be disheartening when other children talk about their electronic experiences, or when screen-free children are inadvertently exposed to such media when playing with their friends.
Some useful references: (available from the Parents Library and Te Ra Wondershop)
Fools Gold –Alliance for Childhood
The Plug-in Drug – Marie Win
Endangered Minds – Jane Healey
Who’s bringing them up? – Martin Large
After the Death of Childhood – David Buckingham
Amusing ourselves to Death – Neil Postman