I think there seems to be a high percentage of technologically-oriented families who are attracted to Waldorf Schools or Waldorf homeschooling. I often wonder if families who are involved in technology are attracted because they need the balance in their lives,or because they may be creative people in general.
However, technology and Waldorf Education is an area where many families can quickly feel out of place. It can be frustrating for parents who have paid a great deal of money to send their small children to Waldorf schools and hope to have their children interact with children who are not partaking in much media to have this hope be dashed. It can also be hard for the technologically- oriented family who feels they “are not Waldorf enough” because they have jobs involving computers and work from home on their computers. Such is a sign of the times. They compare themselves to the Waldorf families who don’t own a TV and sigh. Some Waldorf families I have met have a large gap in ages of their children, and so the younger members of the family are a bit along for the ride when the technology rules relax some for the older children.
Do any of these scenarios sound like your family?
I think one thing to consider is that Waldorf education does not say that children have to be media-free forever. The doors do open, but hopefully slowly and when children have the maturity and are the developmental age to deal with the decisions that go along with media.
People ask me all the time about media and Waldorf. These are my ideas, these are the way we do things in our household (and my husband works for a very major technological corporation, so we do have technology in our home). Again, this may not resonate with you at all, you may not have much technology in your home, so please take what works for you.
For children under the age of 7, no media would be ideal. If this is not possible, then perhaps a few hand-picked, hand-selected gentle videos to be used very sparingly. No video games, no handheld video game players. No ads, restricting items and clothing with marketing- tie ins. No Wii or Kinect.
For children ages 7-9, I would say about the same.
For children ages ten to twelve, I would say still no video games or handheld video game players. Some families at this point would still be limiting media and screens. In understanding that by twelve children in our society tend to slow down and become sedentary, so I opt for strong limiting. I am not sure how any Waldorf families are handling a Wii or Kinect if they have one, although it seems around ten and above that a family could play together for a short period several times a month. Please do write in and share if you have rules in your family regarding these.
Perhaps though, at this point you feel comfortable with some movies and or TV that you pick a bit more frequently, but still keeping a reign on it. Perhaps the content relates to something you are studying. Perhaps this is also the time when you take your child to a movie in a movie theater, although I have to be honest and say I never see too much that I really want my child to see, so my oldest has not been in a movie theater yet…All the children’s things seem so sarcastic, silly, flippant, to me but perhaps I am not looking hard enough?? My own taste in movies runs to the pretty innocent, so maybe this is all just me.
Computer usage in the home may start here, around age ten or eleven (and again, I know some families who would try to hold out a bit longer). I know in a Waldorf School, children would learn about computers and work on them typically in the eighth grade, but home is not school. It might be nice to stave using a computer off longer, but I feel for many homes where parents are on the computer, or work from home on a computer, an introduction can start very simply with a knowledgeable parent.
Age eleven to twelve or thirteen – Parents frequently ask me about Facebook accounts. I will be plain here and say that I do not think your child is old enough for a Facebook account. It violates Facebook’s policies on minimum age (which is thirteen) for Facebook, as a matter of fact. I like this article’s pretty no-nonsense take on it here: http://www.compunoodle.com/facebook-minimum-age/
Age fourteen and above - Perhaps now you tackle Facebook if you feel that is important for a teen. I would love to hear from some of you with teens how you feel about this. Tackle computer games (but still no hand held video game players please!). And yes, computer usage and TV and even cell phone usage that has email by phone and texting. What will the limits be on this? Again, computers are also looked at and worked with in most eighth grade Waldorf classrooms, so tackle it all together as a family! Come up with screen time limits: how much screen time are you comfortable with in totality? What content is comfortable to you and how will you keep tabs on this?
I would love to hear from you regarding how you deal with all kinds of media in your family in the comment box. This is a topic that can become rather heated, so please be respectful of where everyone is in their walk with this. Thank you.