Waldorf Publications is Celebrating Screen Free Week! May 04 2015

Waldorf Publications
The Research Institute for Waldorf Education Endorses Screen Free Week
May 4 - May 10

Screen Free Week gives us a chance to pause to consider beyond the noise and distraction of screens, pop-ups and advertisements. What message would we like children to glean from our behavior? What values are being communicated subliminally in our habitual practices?

First of, as a parent (children now grown) and a teacher (only of adults now but of children for many years), I always wanted children to love the world into which they were born. It is a genuinely good world, filled with good people, and extraordinarily clever ideas and technology that make life a whiz and a wonder. I also always wanted children in my circle to feel the high value of human life…that speaking to people in person, eye-to-eye, is a powerful gift and an experience filled with infinite potential. So I would try to not answer the phone if I had someone in front of me, engaged in conversation. We worked to honor the passing of people in our lives, working to remember them clearly and celebrate the gifts they gave while on earth.


My work as parent and teacher ended before the full-court-press that made electronic communication, entertainment, and education a dominant force. Watching from a bit of distance now I can see how much more difficult it is to parent with “Virtual Reality” competing with the world of the senses.

There are programs invented for children that boast of cooking projects that create no mess (and produce no real cookies to eat) but that persist in the false statement that “we are cooking” together. These virtual programs often have a reading or math agenda hooked to them.

I went through such a cooking program on an iPad screen and wondered, if I were four years old, the target age for this program, I would be misled into believing that what I was doing, pushing buttons on a screen, was really cooking. What would my framework, my context of living be like if this were the case?

This “counterfeit” of actual cooking in a screen program avoids messes I was told, and this was a boon for mothers. My motherly sensibilities were offended because I have many fond memories of building gingerbread houses, baking bread and cookies, licking bowls of remainder icing and having little hands to help me dry dishes as we cleaned up. What boon could there be in sacrificing all that to avoid a mess?

Little children work for a good long seven years to develop their physical bodies. Their entire life’s work until the age of seven or so is to jump, run, smell, touch, eat, shout, sing, observe with intensity, formulate thoughts and words. The tasks of figuring out how color, paste, scissors, forks, pianos, guitars, doorknobs, bedsheets, windows, and televisions work are time consuming and stimulating. Distracting children from this as if anything were more important comprises a small tragedy.

Studies on brain development, sensory integration, optimum optical and auditory development, small and gross motor skill cultivation, social skills, and moral development all point to a greater or lesser degree to the importance of protecting children’s physical development in the early years.

Once a screen is in the focus of a child so that the content on what’s on the screen dominates and direct sensory experience stops in a child’s sensibilities, a counterfeit has usurped the rightful place in a child’s experiences. Movement stops on the outside and on the inside.

Celebrate Screen Free Week with an old fashioned, back-to-basic-play-projects-on-the- dining-room-table-with-crayons-and-paste-baking-walking-talking-singing series of days and see what happens to children, to you, to the world around you.

After the week is done, send us your reports on what you did and what happened. Yes, yes, these will come by electronics and screens. But let’s start making plans for more balance – push back on virtual reality crowding out the glorious ordinariness of everyday sensory reality. What do you say? Live a little this week!

For more information on Screen Free Week visit the website at http://www.screenfree.org/
For more information on the Waldorf view of media in the home see:
Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds Susan Johnson, M.D.
The Children of Cyclops: The Influence of Television Viewing on the Developing Human Brain Keith Buzzell
Trained to Kill Dave Grossman
Statement on Children and the Media
The Impact of Television (Media) on Child Development Robyn Ritchie

Our Part  

In the office of Waldorf Publications we have been discussing what we can do to honor the week. Publishing books and enrollment materials, processing orders and shipping them to all of you, requires almost non-stop computer use for all of us. We cannot afford to close shop for the week.

But we are lining up tasks we can accomplish offline with a commitment to stay off computers and screens for two hours each day.   We have agreed to each read one of our books and write a review of it, for example. We might take a walk around our little village’s blocks to take in the stirring life around in this burgeoning season.

So in our small way (ours might be called “Screen Free Weak!”) we are going to avoid screens as best we can and think deeper thoughts, breathe in the spring, so hard won in the Northeast this year, and ponder a bit more inwardly for swatches of time to consider things a bit less externally stimulated and more inwardly developed. We can discuss together then how much better our eyes feel, maybe how much better our thoughts feel. We might better be able to announce that our inwards “screens” are not blank.

We are hoping you will all join us. To regain an inward depth for a brief time as a collective group might be more powerful than we realize it can be.