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.