Some of you have asked questions about the role media plays in our home. Do we watch television, do we watch movies, do we play video games?I feel this is a very touchy subject and am hoping I can share how our family handles media in our home in a non-judgemental and truthful way.
Our family subscribes to many Waldorf philosophies and limiting media exposure is one we buy into without reservation. There are many reasons why we feel that TV is against the best interests of our children. Not only have we have read many articles and studies that regale the negative effects that too much TV has on young, developing, brains. But we have also realized that when we have randomly watched TV with our children, we have come away from the experience knowing in our hearts that the time we have just spent has been, if not a negative and harmful experience, then at least a total waste of our family time. So, yes, we do actively limit media exposure in our home.
Not completely though. About three and a bit years ago, when Kitty was 4, we decided to end our cable subscription and therefore do not have any television channels in our house at all. We do have a portable DVD machine and a number of DVD’s that Matthew and I have carefully selected. Our children watch a few of the Disney fairytale movies that we think are lovely (albeit far too long) and we have a number of Nature DVD’s like ‘Earth’ and David Attenborough. These, our children are allowed to watch if they feel like it. Father Christmas brought them a delightful set of DVD’s called Storybook International which I think is a marvelous series for anyone who want’s to make sure their children are watching quality stories. There are 10 discs and each disc has about 5, beautifully narrated fairytales on it. The stories are tales and legends that have been collected from around the world. They tell of places like Africa, Russia and India. And they are acted by wonderful actors with beautiful scenery. I love that each story is only about 20 minutes long so my children are not ‘locked in’ to an hour and a half like they are with other movies. And I love that they are learning about other cultures and countries. Here is a YouTube clip of one of the fairytales… The Stubborn Princess.
By not having TV channels in our home, there is never an opportunity to ever randomly watch TV. Any movie time they do have is a conscious decision. And what they watch is a conscious decision too. It’s totally amazing to me that, having been out of the TV scene for so long, I find what my friends call ‘educational’ TV utterly jarring and inappropriate. They say… ‘But, how can Dora be harmful?’ I don’t want to say that it is harmful, but to me who has become sensitized to TV (as opposed to desensitized) Dora is loud and brash and mesmerizing in a Kaa (the snake from the Jungle Book) kind of way. I am somewhat appalled at the TV shows that are directed at the 8 to 10 year old audience. They are, in my opinion, often sassy, far too grown up and, again, inappropriate for children who should still be innocent in mind and spirit. Whenever I happen to catch a moment or two of them, I feel immensely relieved that my 8 year old is not subjected to them on a daily basis. I find the advertising during these shows alarming too.
We are not dogmatic about no TV. If we are at someones house and the kids are watching the television, we will make sure that they are watching a kids’ channel and let it fly. There have been times when I have felt totally uncomfortable with what has been on the TV when at a friends house and I have had to make an issue of it. On one occasion, the adults were watching ‘Bounty Hunter’ when the children joined us. Our friends thought nothing of it and I had to be brave enough to ask them to turn it off. Another time, the adults were watching the news and the kids joined us when a news story about mothers who murder their babies came on. On both occasions, I was utterly amazed that our friends thought nothing of letting their children watch such sensitive material. Both of these experiences were highly uncomfortable for me but they strengthened my resolve to protect my children from media I feel they are too young for.
I have had people say to me, ‘It’s an ugly world out there… you shouldn’t shield them from the truth they might, one day, have to face.’ My response is ‘Why?’… ‘Why should a young spirit know that there is ugliness out there?’ I want it to be a beautiful world for as long as possible… with any luck it might just be beautiful for them forever.
A Good Man and I don’t miss the television at all. We get our news from reading newspapers, the internet and NPR. And, I have to admit to having had a horrible addiction to reality TV and was guilty of spending wasting hour upon hour watching utter junk. We have a Netflix subscription and watch an hour of TV a night on my laptop after the kids have gone to bed. Mindless TV watching is not an option.
Our children do not play video games. They do not use the computer. At 8 and 4, and at a Waldorf school, there’s no need for them to have computer screen time. I have an ipad that has a few free games on it and they play on it when were are waiting somewhere and there is nothing else for them to do.
We have quite a few books on tape and Kitty sometimes loves to listen to her favorite stories like Little House on the Prairie. And I am really thinking of joining Sparkle Stories for her when finances ease up a little for us. I know she’ll love having a regular subscription of beautiful stories to listen to.
What do our children do instead of watching TV? They play together, they play alone, they play inside, they play outside, they read books, they knit, they practice shooting arrows, they paint, they draw, they build forts, they build blocks, they make up stories, they make gnomes, play ball…
In a nutshell, we do not miss having a television in our house. Our children do have media time. And we get a little free time while they are watching their stories but no more than when they are playing or reading or crafting. We like that it is quality media that we have carefully preselected. Childhood is just too precious to spend in front of a TV.
I hope this has been helpful in some way.
Blessings and magic,