TV, Screens, and electronic games position statement

 

Part 1 

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.

 

Part 2 

Process

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.

Content

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’)

Curriculum Delivery

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