Browsing Tag

children and media

Parenting, TV and Media, Waldorf Education

Screen-Free Week: Pulling the Plugs!

Below is a re-post of a piece I wrote last year for TV-Turnoff Week about my family’s experience pulling the plug many years ago. This year, TV-Turnoff Week has evolved into “Screen-Free Week.”

From the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood‘s website:

Screen-Free Week is an annual celebration where children, families, schools, and communities turn off screens and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature, and enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Since we rarely watch TV, the challenge for us this year will be turning off our computers! Impossible for me now that I own an internet business. But eager to participate,  I am committing to no Facebook, Twitter or recreational use of the computer for the week.

I hope my story will inspire you to join me!

TV-TURNOFF WEEK: PULLING THE PLUG

Fourteen years ago, I was a young mother living in Hollywood, the media capital of the world. My husband Max worked in the entertainment industry, and I had been an actress prior to my son Harper’s birth. We were a family immersed in the culture of media.

During Harper’s early years, I was clueless about the effect of media on young children. I never questioned the effect of TV viewing on his developing brain. After all, he only watched “educational” shows on PBS and family-friendly videos, like Disney movies. He loved them! What could be wrong with that?

TV-Turnoff-Week

When he was four years old, I visited the Pasadena Waldorf School and became enchanted by what I saw. Intuitively, I knew that this was a healthy environment for children. I began to research and to learn as much about Waldorf education as I could.

I learned that Waldorf educators strongly discouraged TV and electronic media viewing by young children. This was a novel idea to me, but as I read more about the effect of media on children’s brain development, I started questioning the wisdom of continuing to allow Harper to sit in front of a screen for hours a day. But how, I wondered, would I get through my days without the electronic babysitter? How would I get dinner made? How would I take a shower? It didn’t help that Max was not convinced that TV, in moderation, was a harmful thing.

In April of that year, I learned about TV-Turnoff Week—a week in April during which families are encouraged to turn off their TVs for a week. I decided to give it a try to see if we could survive a week with no TV. At the beginning of the week, I shut the doors to the TV cabinet and hid the remote.

I would be lying if I said it was easy. Harper and I both experienced withdrawal symptoms. On the first couple of days, Harper would ask for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Why, he pleaded, couldn’t he watch “Peter Pan?” I told him the TV was “resting” for a few days, and endured his whining with resolve. Silently, I wondered if I would last the week, feeling like he suddenly needed my constant attention. It was so much easier make dinner and straighten the house when I could just pop in Mary Poppins.

During the week, I decided to invest in some new art supplies. I bought stacks of drawing paper, and new sets of beeswax crayons and colored pencils. Then by day four, I witnessed a miracle. The whining stopped. I watched in awe as Harper became engrossed in drawing. Almost overnight, I saw his drawings transform from immature scribbles into representational images. Suddenly he was drawing pictures of pirate ships, castles, knights and dragons. He would sit at the little table in his room and draw picture after picture. Prior to this, I didn’t think he had the capacity to sit and focus for so long.

The drawing continued through long periods during days five and six. I could prepare dinner again while he was happily occupied, with the TV still hidden in the dark cabinet. I wouldn’t have believed it possible! When he wasn’t drawing, he became more interested in building with blocks and playing with puzzles.

I never anticipated such a dramatic change in only a week. By day seven, both my husband and I were convinced that there was no good reason to turn the TV back on. As Max said by the end of the week, “I guess it certainly couldn’t hurt to live without TV.”

We never threw our TV away, though many times I wished we could! Max continued to write about media and could not give up being able to watch World Series baseball. But it stayed turned off most of the time while my two boys were growing up. Though they often complained and questioned why we didn’t watch TV like other families did, Harper has, on more than one occasion, thanked me for not allowing them to watch when they were younger. As teenagers, they watch TV occasionally and enjoy it, but I am convinced that not having spent their childhoods parked in front of screens allowed them to become the creative and resourceful young adults they are now.

Incidentally, Harper has decided to return to his Hollywood roots and is now a college freshman studying filmmaking.

tv

Screen-Free Week 2011 is April 18-24

For more information, help and encouragement:

Screen-Free Week

101 TV-Free Alternatives

Unplugged Family Activities

Won’t you join me in participating in Screen-Free Week this year? Share your challenges and successes here!


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Childhood, Parenting, TV and Media, Waldorf Education

Weekend Reading

Well, September 1 has come and gone. It was the date I had hoped to get the new and improved Bella Luna Toys website live. I didn’t make my original goal, but I am determined to open its doors to you before the month is over.

Plugging away around-the-clock, as I am—editing product descriptions, uploading photos, and adding scores of new natural Waldorf toys—has left me with very little time to do much writing. (Even though I have dozens of ideas percolating!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d leave you with some interesting reading for the long weekend. Here are a few of my favorite blog posts from the past week on the themes of childhood and parenting.

Did you know that spanking is illegal in Sweden?

spanking Sweden

Photo by Linda Aslund

Today on her blog Not Just Cute, Amanda Morgan writes about Sweden’s anti-spanking laws, and offers gentle suggestions for positive discipline (that won’t require calling in law enforcement officials!).

No Spanking in Sweden

Watch What You Say! Young Children Affected by “Racy Talk.”

One of my favorite sites focused on children and media (and my favorite guide for learning what movies may not be appropriate for children and teens) is Common Sense Media. This week, Caroline Knorr addresses a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that determined that “racy talk” and suggestive innuendo doesn’t go over young children’s heads. (Another pet peeve of mine when it comes to Disney movies.)

Racy Talk: Kids Are Listening (and Learning)

Are Our Fears Making Us Crazy?

Another of my favorite bloggers, Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids writes about the insane ways in which we behave, propelled by our fears of the all the possible dangers that are waiting to befall our children. On a lighter note, she addresses the absurd comment of a produce distributor that watermelon seeds could pose a choking hazard.

Kids! Watch Out! It’s — God Help Us — a Watermelon Seed!

And more seriously, she recounts a young man’s experience of being harshly and unfairly disciplined in high school for carrying a pocket knife. In his native Switzerland, it was customary for children to carry pocket knives to school. What, I wonder, would public school officials think about the many Waldorf early childhood teachers I know who give a pocket knife to each of their students on his or her sixth birthday? Call the spanking police, no doubt!

The Most Insane Zero Tolerance Story Yet

There you have it. Now I need to batten down the hatches in preparation for Tropical Storm Earl, which is scheduled to hit the coast of Maine this evening. I hope the weather is better where you are, and that your Labor Day weekend is full of play!

What blog posts have intrigued or inspired you this week? Please share your links!

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Childhood, Links, Natural Toys, Play, Storytelling, Toddlers, TV and Media

Weekend Reading

I have been hard at work this week on creating the new and improved site for Bella Luna Toys. Unfortunately, it’s left me with little time for writing. So while I plug away at the new site (and, oh, I can’t wait for you to see it!) here are a few links to posts from the blogosphere this week that I found of interest, and hope you will, too!

Toddler Storytelling from Code Name: Mama

The Other Toy Story from BeliefNet.com

TV on SCHOOL BUSES? Why Not Just Set Up A Deep-Fryer & Throw Kids’ Brains In? from Free-Range Kids

Let Your Kids Get Dirty from SimpleMom.net

child playing in dirt image

Photo Courtesy of SimpleMom.net

Have a great weekend!

xox
Sarah

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