I was giving a tour of the school the other day and as we entered each new classroom the parent kept saying “wow!” and as I described the nuances of Waldorf Education he was asking questions, very excited and impressed by what he was seeing and hearing. Then, as we left the building he turned to me and said “This is an amazing education. I just can’t imagine doing the no tv thing.” Needless to say, I was surprised at his candor, and his concerns which led into a conversation about Waldorf and media. I fear many people dismiss Waldorf education for fear of being forced to give up their tvs!
Let me set the record straight. At Seacoast Waldorf School every family, along with the guidance of their child’s teacher, chooses how much media exposure (if any) their children are allowed to have. Waldorf Education is not anti-media, rather, it is pro-imagination. The reasons we are very thoughtful about how much, what and when our students watch television, play video games or spend time on computers are very deliberate.
The pace of television today is not what it was when we were children. One minute of Sponge Bob Square Pants has the same amount of scene changes as one hour of Mr. Rogers. Rapid scene changes does not allow the young child’s brain to correctly understand the image so it is sent to the fight or flight part of the brain. When this part of the brain is stimulated for a while it creates a low level of anxiety in the child.
The advertising on television today is designed to have rapid scene changes and create this same excited fight or flight response with the image of the product remaining on the screen for a solid 4 seconds so as to be the most memorable image to the child. Using such insidious techniques, advertisers are deliberately planting consumer desires for their product(s) into your child’s awareness.
TV, video games and online imagery are larger-than-life. When a child can see the intricate details of a frog’s eye on PBS Nature, eventually they lose interest in playing with just a plain old ordinary frog outside.
When a child is spending hours watching tv, playing video games or staring at a computer screen, they are passively being influenced by someone else’s ideas. They are not creating their own. They are not engaged in imaginative play or cooperative play and are missing opportunities to be doing other developmentally important unstructured play activities.
At Seacoast Waldorf School we require a highly conscientious approach to media. We ask for no television during the school week or at the very least none before school so that when children play at school, their play is original and not a re-enactment of something they have seen. We also ask that any media be age appropriate and preferably without advertisement such as G rated dvds or On Demand films, avoiding exposing the children to adult content such as news broadcasts or inappropriate television or even radio programming.
You will be amazed at the level of creative play that will blossom in your house when the television is off! Often the less media a child is exposed to, the less they depend on it or ask for it. Please feel free to ask your teachers for ideas, advice and help if you wish to pursue a more media-free family life!