Written by Rene Petersen, teacher at Trinus
Let’s clear something up right from the start! A misconception exists that Waldorf schools are “anti-technology”. BUT…. According to the dictionary, technology is defined as: “science or knowledge put into practical use to solve a problem or invent something.”
Waldorf schools are not anti-technology. How could we possibly be? Technology is about the progress of mankind and this is celebrated in Waldorf schools! The question here is around electronic/gadget technology. Specifically, how much time our children spend in front of a screen e.g. a tablet, cell phone, computer, TV etc. Something to keep in mind about Waldorf Education- EVERYTHING we do is based around child development. We want to give children what is age appropriate in the healthiest way possible. We want to make sure that all aspects of the child’s being are developing healthy. So when we consider screen time it is from this point of view: “What is right for a child of this age? What is right for THIS child? Is this healthy?”
Instead of telling you as parents what to do in terms of screen-time, I would rather offer some points to consider in order for you to make decisions that work for your family:
1) ELECTRONICS TAKES AWAY THE LEARNING PHASE: Often when we use a device/gadget, we bypass the effort of learning a new skill and go straight to the shortcut. Two examples: 1) Calculator– Mathematical thinking is not only about finding the solution/answer or speed. It is about logic, reason, critical thinking, problem solving, patience, the beauty of the process… We take that away when we give children a calculator and then we should ask ourselves: “who is doing the thinking?” 2) Why teach cursive writing? Why do children need to learn this antiquated writing skill when they could just type? Because cursive is not only about communication- it is about effort, beauty, training the brain, hand eye co-ordination, flexibility and options. It helps us find our own style of writing- often a combination of print and cursive- individualization.
2) EFFECTS ON THE BODY: There is so much research being undertaken at the moment about what is happening to our children today and how their bodies are suffering. This research is now coming out of mainstream universities/institutions. Physical development is being impaired because screen time is taking away play time and time for activity. Today there are more children with sensory issues- who cannot properly process sense impressions; rising occurrences of ADHD; children who can’t sit still or focus or concentrate. Childhood obesity is on the rise in the world. Children no longer know the limits of their body; they have no idea of temperature and they do not know how to handle pain. Children cannot self-regulate because they don’t play and challenge themselves and they do not USE their bodies as they were designed. It is no coincidence that these things are happening at a time when our children are moving less and less. As adults we know this too- rising levels of back ache, stress, illnesses, chronic diseases, mental health challenges…. And as adults we are encouraged to “switch off/unplug”, so why are we not applying the same to our children?
3) ACCESS: For me, one of the scariest aspects is that it is VERY difficult to shield our children from what is out there. Movies, internet…. they can access everything. And it is up to us to try put up the filters. A good website to filter the movies is www.commonsensemedia.org
4) GESTURE TODAY: EVERYBODY is always looking down at a screen in their hands. When we are walking from one place to the another. We are doing it and our children see us doing it. With this gesture- are we seeing the world we live in? Are we seeing each other? Are we noticing what is going on around us? Are we appreciating life or just engrossed in a screen?
5) WHAT IS SCREENTIME TAKING AWAY? Think of a family sitting at a table in a restaurant, the children are on phone or iPad while parents are having a conversation. Children are used to demanding the iPad. Giving it to them its damaging them more than helping them. 1) Children don’t have to learn how to behave properly!! My sister and I had to sit still and behave and be quiet otherwise we got into trouble! Nowadays children are not expected to behave well. 2) Quality time- is this family sharing even though they are sitting at the same table? 3) We are not teaching children how to wait patiently- we give them something to fill the time and we are teaching them to exist only with instant gratification. It is ok for children to be bored.
6) LACK OF IMAGINATION- Through electronics the pictures given to children are ready-made. They don’t need to learn how to pay attention or focus or think or create pictures. The bright colours, sounds and loud music over stimulates them… This level of high stimulation becomes the norm and everything else is boring!! It also narrows their interests because children would rather watch a movie or play a video game than do anything else. Even if they are watching documentaries- still, the main activity they want to do is WATCH.
7) OF COURSE CHILDREN LOVE IT!!! Some people are paid a lot of money to ensure your children like what they see and want more!
8) AGE APPROPRIATE: Regarding contents of movies/TV shows/games even books: besides being scared- Can a child who is 9 understand what 16 year old Harry Potter is going through?? Can they appreciate the depths of stories and understand them as intended??
9) BUT THE CHILDREN WILL BE LEFT BEHIND!! NO WAY!!! Children’s brains are wired differently today. This is a fact we can see all around us. Those fingers know exactly what to do, where to press etc. I remember my mother asking, my 3 year old brother to change the TV from satellite to DVD because she couldn’t figure it out. And he could do it after being shown only once. We all know parents who have said: “my child did something to my phone now I can’t work it.” Or parents who need to set up a passcode because their children know how to operate the phone…. Plus, electronic technology is everywhere. They learn from us, they see us. They know how to use skype, Facebook, etc., because some live all over the world now. Do we teach accounting in primary school? No! And has this affected the accounting world negatively? No!
** ADULTS are the ones that are currently calling for increasing our children’s screen time. Adults who see NOW how electronics have made their lives faster and easier. Adults who didn’t grow up with electronics in the way they are freely available today. So, it would be very interesting to see what decisions the current generation make out of their experiences having had gadgets freely available.
When we are making choices regarding screen time for our children remember to consider- what are we taking AWAY from our children when we put them in front of a screen? What are the screens replacing? How are we helping them grow and develop physically? Is it healthy and age appropriate? Is my child interacting and experiencing the world healthily or only through a screen?
Don´t forget to take a look at: Commonsensemedia.org for guidelines regarding the content of movies, games and TV programmes.
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