Parents have consistently found that reducing the influence of media in their family life has encouraged family members to develop a livelier interest in one another, enlivened and deepened their communication, and fostered a deeper connection to the world around them.
The community which surrounds Sunrise Waldorf School (SWS) is a fundamental aspect of school life. Families have made a conscious decision to send their children here and to be a part of this community, because they are in line with the school's vision, and educational philosophy. They find the values and practices of school support their children's development.
New parents become a part of this community, the success of which depends upon the degree to which each individual's actions resonate with, and confirm these goals.
Parents grow in partnership over the eight or more years they spend together. They experience developmental challenges together, compare notes, and offer one another suggestions. They do this best when they agree to work from the same assumptions and ground rules, and their collective wisdom can create a supportive environment for their children.
Why did SWS create media guidelines?
The faculty and community of SWS are interested in creating and maintaining a healthy social and learning environment for the children, in accordance with the values of Waldorf education.
These values create the solid foundation upon which our community rests.
Faculty has seen that when children are exposed to media, it affects their learning and the classroom environment. Based on current research, and teachers’ observations, exposure to media affects children's physical demeanour, attention, interest in encountering the lesson, and social issues in the class, and on the playground. Children tend to create friendships and social groups partly based on what they are exposed to outside of school. Any child who has not shared certain media experiences may be excluded.
What do we mean by (electronic) media?
- TV, videos, movies, youtube
- computers, internet, cell phones, i-phones, smart phones, i-pads, email, instant messaging, texting
- facebook, myspace, twitter, instagram
- recorded music, radio, mp3 players, i-pods
- internet and computer gaming, arcade games, nintendo, playstation, Wii, xbox etc, handheld games
What is informing these media guidelines?
The ideals outlined in our mission statement, and the values of Waldorf pedagogy inform everything we do at SWS, including our media guidelines.
Why guidelines and not a policy?
We recognize that each family comes from a different place, with varying attitudes and rules about media in their homes. We want to support families in moving towards consuming less media, so that the children can benefit the most from what they are receiving at school. It is our hope that these suggestions will motivate you to be in line with, and strengthen the integrity of our community.
Who created this document?
The ad hoc media guidelines committee, which is a subcommittee of the grades school faculty.
Why are media guidelines important to follow?
Following our school’s media guidelines supports the children in their learning, in their development, and strengthens our school community. Upholding our media guidelines is a shared responsibility.
What is the role of administration in supporting our media guidelines?
The conversation about the use and/or exposure to media starts early. During our admissions process, SWS media guidelines are explained to new parents wishing to enrol their children at our school.
What is the role of faculty in supporting our media guidelines?
Class teachers engage in respectful dialogue about the use and/or exposure to media with individual parents, and provide support and clear guidance for them in order to bring exposure to media to age appropriate levels. Class teachers discuss our media guidelines during parent evenings, with the goal of creating a class culture based on information, mutual respect and consensus.
What is the role of parents in supporting our media guidelines?
Parents have the final and ultimate responsibility for the well-being of their children and have their best interests at heart. That is one of the reasons that most parents have chosen SWS and Waldorf pedagogy.Parents have a proactive role in supporting their children’s health. In addition to attending class discussions about media, parents may also find necessary to inform themselves about the negative impact that media have on children. Fortunately, a lot of current and objective information is now available on this issue, and is the product of research done by pediatricians, child psychologists, neurologists, child psychiatrists, remedial specialists and other professionals.The parents in any given class can support each other in navigating the media issue, in order to arrive to a more homogeneous and harmonious class environment, where their children are supported and nurtured. Because Waldorf pedagogy is not only intellectual, but has an psycho-emotional, cognitive, practical-experiential and spiritual dimension, the full educational benefits of the Waldorf curriculum result where the home environment and the school environment are aligned. The more harmony and alignment between perspectives at home and perspectives at school, the more gifts the child will receive.
How do these media guidelines support our educational goals?
At SWS we aim to cultivate the child's imaginative capacity, her engagement with and wonder at the world, healthy embodiment, social dynamics, and creativity.
When a child is actively engaged with the world, she is encountering its beauty and challenge, and learning experientially, as opposed to having to her experience mediated and pre-formed.
Healthy play contributes to a healthy social dynamic. Children need live interaction with other children to learn how to work out social challenges.
Free play and a strong imagination are the precursors of intellectual and conceptual thinking, creative problem solving, math and reading skills, and healthy management of social challenges.
All of the above mentioned aspects (imagination, free play, direct experience of the world, social dynamics and creativity) plus physical health and neurological development are affected by the amount of media a child is exposed to.
If we encounter the child as more than a physical being, we begin to conceive that all of her experiences, including our own interactions with her, have a far greater impact than we could have ever imagined.
How can my family transition to using less media?
Transitioning to less media will look differently for each family. Different families have different habits around media use; but these are some of the areas that are important to look at:
- Play dates – Many classes have an agreement that play dates will be media-free. Discuss with other parents what play dates will look like. This is especially important to reach an agreement if we know that other parents tolerate more media than our family. Open, non-threatening, safe, friendly, compassionate communication is the best way to navigate any subject that may find parents on a different footing.
- Activities with extended family, community, neighbours – It can be a difficult situation to navigate, but try to arrange that activities with extended family and friends are not oriented around media. Explain clearly the choice you have made as a family with regard to media, while refraining from making assumptions and judging.
- In the home – It can be helpful to identify when the use of media occurs in your home, and think about how you can substitute this with engaging activities, crafts, time spent in nature, community events, or other ways of creating family time. Your teacher can be an invaluable source with regards to age-appropriate activities that may work for you and your family.
- What if my child is sick? – As a healthier alternative to media exposure, consider more gentle, non-taxing activities for your child when she is sick and has to stay at home, so that her body can recover more quickly from illness.
- How do I approach media restrictions with my children of different ages? – Children who are of different ages need to be treated differently. Teenagers may become computer-fluent and literate, while at the same time helping to protect their younger siblings from inappropriate media exposure. Simple house rules can be put into place, such as times, content, and amount of use, to help older children regulate their choices. Media use can be considered as a privilege which needs to be used responsibly.
SWS Media Guidelines
Our media guidelines aim to support the objectives of Waldorf education and child development, and to be workable in the homes and lives of school families in our current times. Our goals for the students at SWS include:
A child in ECE programs should not be exposed to any electronic media in daily life. Exposure to radio and recorded music is best limited and age-appropriate. The younger the child, he more vitally important this is. No media, particularly on nights preceding and following school days. We are very grateful for your support in creating a media-free sanctuary for young children.
Grades One to Four
A child in this age group should still not be exposed to electronic media in daily life. Exposure to radio and recorded music is still best limited and age-appropriate. No media, particularly on nights preceding and following school days. We are very grateful for your support in continuing to create a media-free sanctuary for the children in this age group. We are very grateful for your support in creating a media-free sanctuary for children.
Grades Five and Six
At this age, it may be appropriate to begin allowing your child some media exposure. Carefully monitored introduction to age-appropriate movies may occur occasionally, preferably at home ant not at the movie theatre. However, watching videos of themselves (e.g., in class plays) and using electronic media or technology to create movies, videos, artwork, etc., is not recommended for this age group. Still no media on nights preceding and following school days. Computers and TVs should be located in a shared space in the home, not in a child’s bedroom. Provide rules for media usage – content, times, and amount of use need to be decided by parents. Prohibit access to any website where the child may post his or her personal information, including instant messaging and e-mailing.Review all media content before hand, watch with the children and discuss it afterwards. Encourage media time to continue to be a part of family time.
Grades Seven and Eight
Media exposure must be limited, age-appropriate and closely supervised and guided by parents. Media exposure can take place on weekends and vacations. However, still no media during the school week and no media on nights preceding school days. Computers and TVs should be located in a shared space in the home, not in a child’s bedroom. Provide rules for media usage – content, times, and amount of use need to be decided by parents. Prohibit access to any website where the child may post his or her personal information, including instant messaging and e-mailing.Review all media content before hand, watch with the children and discuss it afterwards. Encourage media time to continue to be a part of family time. Encourage regular study habits in a quiet environment, without a backdrop of recorded music or video. Limit time spent listening to ipods and other portable music players. Screen music for content and lyrics. Observe PG-13 and R-ratings for movies. Rock concerts are not yet appropriate.
Conversations between the class teacher and class parents are crucial to creating a common ground around the use of media by students, as teachers have experienced that varying levels of media exposure among classmates are socially divisive and erode social interaction at school.
Furthermore, it is crucial that parents educate themselves on the use and abuse of social media, particularly on issues such as cyber bullying, sexual exploitation, internet exposure, loss of privacy, and the addictive nature of video and computer games.
Cell phones and i-phones. New research has indicated that these phones can affect brain activity. Furthermore, these phones now provide unlimited internet access and act as a status symbol. We kindly request parents, other family members and visitors to our school to teach by example and refrain from using their phones (and other electronic devices) on school grounds, whenever possible.
Cameras during performances
We understand that you want to capture the joy of your children’s performance; however we kindly appeal to our audience not to take photos or record the performances. The activity of photographing or filming detracts from the experience and the focus of the children and of the audience. Being photographed or filmed changes the nature of the event into a performance that is being done for a device rather than for people. We strive to have the children and the audience experience and celebrate a live performance. In consideration for the children and your fellow audience members, if you must take photos or record the performance, please take a seat at the very back of the school hall. We thank you in advance for your kind cooperation in complying with these requests. - SWS Faculty.
Please strongly consider these media guidelines and your teacher's recommendations, in making choices around your child's exposure to media. Thank you for your cooperation and crucial support.