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TV or not TV?

That really is the question.  My older son watched his first video when he turned 9. Sound of Music. That was a big deal.  His dad came to the house and we all watched the video together.  I was able to see his face and his reactions to his first-ever film. He said he was certain Julie Andrews’ suitcases were empty because how could she run, jump and dance  with them like that?  He had a million precious comments and observations. He sang the songs for days on end….”Climb every mountain…..” and his little brother echoed it…”Climb all the mountains….” And I realized how wonderful it is when they are not bombarded with so many images so that they can live into the one film deeply. Because this was the only film he watched, everything lived in him for some time.  To me, that’s a healthier approach to watching television and videos.

 

If I had my way, he would not have watched until he was 12, but his father felt it was okay. I was in near tears when I discovered that my little one was shown the same film when he turned 7. I felt that was way too young and totally unnecessary because the child was not even asking for it. That son of mine still spends hours in his playstand creating tableaus and is still so wildly and beautifully creative in his play. During their summer vacation, he also watched “The Lion King” a few times and now the house is full of songs from that film. I was also sad that I didn’t get to experience his first viewing with him, the way I did with my older boy.  But such is life and my family circumstances are forcing me to accept painful things about the rearing of my children that are now  beyond my control. I console myself with the thought that they also chose those circumstances and I feel I have to work on making them feel that’s okay, too, and not add to their feeling of division.  Though my heart breaks at the thought, I’ve had to work on adjusting. There’s nothing I can do, and I just am thankful that they have Waldorf Education that is full of music, art and nature.  I just have to be grateful that they’re not constantly on the tube, either, since I no longer own a television set.

 

I won’t go into why television is not healthy for young children because all you have to do is google that and there comes all the information.  It is not just content, but the effects of the medium itself.  When I see how my younger boy still plays with his story table and how alive his creative play is, I know he did not have to watch so soon.  Creativity and imagination are what we need to protect and enhance in our children because these are the very things we will need to heal our country and the world.  When the future generations can imagine and create true, living solutions for what ails our world, we will truly be blessed. If, from a young age, we are already filling their heads and hearts with somebody else’s worldview and interpretation of the world, we are killing this ability to think and create out of the box, out of what is alive and unique in them.  But every Waldorf parent knows that. All this is to say that there are other factors, aside from the obvious reasons, that we must take into consideration when we make this major decision for our children.   Will you get full support in your decision?  Will your family and extended family honor your wishes?  Or will you and your child feel torn and divided about it?  The other question we have to ask ourselves is: Why have them watch television so early when we already know what it can do to their imagination?  Is it so we can have a few hours to ourselves? Is it because we feel we are depriving them if they don’t? 

 

When I think about it, the answers all point towards the feelings or convenience of the parents.  There doesn’t seem to be any strong point about electronic media that truly and authentically serves young children. None.  Not if you know how deeply the effects go into their bodies (the nervous system, their eyesight, etc.) and their souls.  So, when you decide to have them watch television, be clear about who it truly serves. 

 

Each parent will come to their own decision.  Some Waldorf parents allow their kids to watch but just make sure they are there to field questions. Others, like me, prefer to wait.  Others, like me again, also have to deal with other family members who do not share the same conviction.  The challenge is to find common ground.  It is not true that television is not allowed in Steiner schools, but anyone who has done their homework about it, will opt to delay their exposure. If you still decide to allow your children to watch television, at least know what you can do to lessen the damage: bring more art and nature into their lives and be there when they watch.

 

It is, like most decisions on the conscious path, not easy, but it’s always good to come to an informed choice rather than one that happens by default.  You and your children are better served when the decision in you is grounded and clear, whatever it is.

9 Comments

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  1. raphael lazo / Jun 9 2008 8:06 pm

    A good book on this subject is Children of the Cyclops. What is amazing about this book is not that it details the possible harm and damage caused by TV, but more importantly, that the information came from existing studies done by various students and organizations in the US throughout the 60’s and 70’s. In other words, the information is there.

    Another wonderfully revealing verse on the “evils” of TV is found in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. The Umpalumpahs(I hope I spelled it correctly) sign a song everytime one the children are sucked in the machinery because they don’t listen to the instructions. The last child to be affected by this is Mike Teevee. When is sucked into the TV set the teleports things, the Oompahloompahs (lets try a different spelling) sing this wonderful song about the evils of TV. Again, what is amazing about this verse is the accuracy with which it discuss the bad effects of TV. And, Roald Dahl wrote this in 1960 when TV was just gaining wide acceptance.

    It is generally recommended by various mentors that all Steiner schools have one or two teachers who specialize on the nature of TV and explain this to parents. And, in the modern updated sense, TV includes videogames, PCs and the like.

  2. Giselle / Jun 13 2008 5:15 am

    Hi Panjee,

    Thank you for the info. A lot of kids right now gets exposed to TV so very early in their lives. I am witness to my TV-reared kids of my friends and family.
    So how do you un-TV a child? It really will be a struggle for most parents to sit with their kids in an activity while the kid is talking about their favorite program. I am seen a 5 year old coming from a nature walk sit in front of the TV as soon as they get home.
    Any suggestions?

  3. panjeetapales / Jun 13 2008 7:25 am

    Hey Giselle,

    The first suggestion would be to review the family’s attitude towards TV because the child will really take its cue from the parents. I don’t own one, though I watch DVD’s on my computer. But TV doesn’t take center stage in our lives, so the children see that and experience it, therefor it isn’t a question for them. It’s just the way it is. With their father, it’s different, but they also know their limits. They watch one video–for now it is Lion King. When we used to own a tv, we put it in a small room and the door was closed whenever someone was watching, but the rule was: if our children knock, we turn off the tube and come out. In that way, may sariling context ang TV sa buhay–it is not so big. It has its limited place. Family life always comes first.

    If parents took the time to do art with their kids, read, cook, play outdoors, even do chores with them, malaking oras na ang mawawala sa TV, but none of this will work if the basic attitudes around it have not been addressed. If the parents are inwardly sure, the children will not question it.

    I hope that helps!

  4. Paula / Jun 16 2008 3:20 pm

    Hi Panjee. I once found myself caught in the Electronic Media web, hoping to free up some time for me, by relegating my responsibilities to Mr. Nick Jr. Aside from giving me ample time to do my own work, it let go of guilt feelings, as my daughter was “happy” watching her favorite characters. Three months ago, when I found Waldorf Education, we turned cold turkey on TV viewing. From at least 3 hours of TV a day for my 3-year old (she started watching at 6 months can you believe?), we have gone for 3 whole months without TV. I thought it was going to be a daunting task but yet, it was fairly easy. Impossible as it may seem, it did not take much cajoling to persuade my child to stop watching television. Yes, she still remembers the characters but now the characters have become more alive with her imagination. As you know, there is no end to the stories she can come up in her mind as it is no longer limited by fixed images on the screen. All I had to do was find alternatives to TV. At the start (a week or so, and some relapses a few times after), when she would ask to “watch TV” I only had to distract her with arts and crafts, a good story, imaginative play or outdoor time. I make it a point every day to take her to the park where she can run, climb, marvel at nature, and dream up her stories.

    I have certainly sensed a change in my daughter’s play. The other day, when we were riding the car, she told me “Mommy we are on a magic carpet.” And the other day, she put two raisins atop each other, she asked me what it was. I replied: “two raisins.” She said: “No mommy, its a horse.” Oh, the exquisite joys of childhood.

    On another note, how do we deal with neighbors or visiting friends’ homes where they watch TV? I have this problem sometimes and I don’t know what to do about it.

    Warm regards.

    Paula

  5. panjeetapales / Jun 18 2008 9:14 pm

    Congratulations, Paula! I consider myself lucky for having found Steiner Education when my eldest was only 5 months old, so I could start them off early, but hats off to people like you who have to “undo” habits. That requires a lot more strength. I would just have people over, rather than have her visit neighbors. But my rules are always clear cut. My boys know, no TV. So they will walk away from a room where someone’s watching–that was before anyway. If you are in a home and kids are watching, maybe you can start a game and invite the kids to join? Little by little people will know your stand on TV and it will get easier. As long as your resolve is there, everything follows.

  6. Giselle / Jul 10 2008 1:37 pm

    Thanks for the response. Could I forward this article and the response to my question to my friends and family? Salamat uli.

  7. panjeetapales / Jul 10 2008 3:54 pm

    Hi Giselle,

    Yes, of course. Salamat din.

    Panj

  8. Ty Webb / Sep 3 2010 12:42 am

    Its just too bad that his first movie had to be, “the Sound of Music”. Why not go with a true classic, like , “Caddyshack”?

    • panjeetapales / Sep 3 2010 7:30 am

      He loved it and the experience was a good one for all of us. That’s what matters. “True Classic” is subjective. Someone else might have said, “It’s too bad his first movie had to be “Caddyshack”. ;p

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