One of the things I have consistently noticed in observing children’s play is the powerful influence television and movie characters have. Not only in how they play but also in their ability to play and engage their own creative force.
Coles notes version of what we strive for in my own home:
- Zero media for children under 2
- Highly selective media for all children and ALWAYS with a parent present for guidance.
- Our family benefited from routine and rhythm around our media consumption
in the form of “movie night” or “Little House on the Prairie Night“
- No hand held devices for children under 10 (no tablets, no ipods, no phones)
- Equivalent time outside IN WILD NATURE for every moment spent in front of a screen.
Why do we make these choices?
My daughter has struggled socially in public school because she has never seen The Walking Dead!
When she was younger we chose to have friends to our home so that she could avoid being subjected to hours of The Disney Channel.
It has not been easy to be strict about media. Nor has it been a perfect journey.
I have a very strong and powerful belief in parents being mindful of the media they are feeding their children. Age appropriate doesn’t really cover it these days when movie and book ratings are G or PG and violence is shockingly glossed over. I’ve even recommended movies I have found to be wholesome and enjoyable for our family that were frightening for another child. Child appropriate seems more adequate and in-line with my thoughts on media intake. Consider the person your child is, or who you want them to become and then consider the piece of media you are asking them to take into their soul. Are they a match? Does this fit with the kind of play you’d like to see your child engage in?
At our center we retell stories a minimum of 3 times so that the deeper message of the story and the story itself has the opportunity to seep into the child’s unconscious. Television shows will do the same thing. However the pictures on a television screen are much more vivid and alive than those just beginning to form in your preschool age child’s imagination.
Watching anything is a very passive activity.
Early childhood as taken from the perspective of Anthroposophy is very much an active phase of growth. Little children were not meant to be passive for extended periods of time. It is quite difficult to hold a group of children in even a simple finger play or gross motor movement circle game and song for more than a few minutes before they are flittering off to move their bodies according to their own will. Consider all of the lost potential for creative play and imaginative story telling (for that is what children are doing when they play) when they sit passively and watch a television show or movie.
When my older children were growing up their attention could not be held by a movie unless an adult was there present with them. We would attend potlucks or other “family” events where the adults would put a movie on to entertain the children so they could socialize and my children would routinely show up a few minutes later bored that none of the kids would play with them. What a shift it made in our gatherings when I would convince the kids to turn off the movie and teach them all a game they could play together in the yard. The laughter we would hear drift in from outside, the bright red cheeks and chests heaving with a wonderful combination of exhaustion and excitement was a refreshing change from the complaints of boredom. The tables were turned and now it was difficult for me to convince my children it was time to go rather than them.
I have repeatedly observed that children who watch very little or no television have better “play-skills” than their peers who regularly consume media. They are more creative. They play alone longer. They require less entertaining because they can entertain themselves.
In a media centered world we are still struggling to find the balance between no-media and regular media consumption.
My role as a parent has been to provide a home environment that discourages media-use. Where activity is happening. Where we are singing, playing, making, drawing, writing, doing, living and laughing together. Which sure has created a lot of joy!