Living Arts Daily: What About Screentime in the Days of Social Distancing?

March 25, 2020

Dear Friends,

Mary, Emily (our amazing social media director), Marianne and I have been communicating, along with Sara, one of our LifeWays Representatives, about striving and thriving in these unprecedented times we are currently experiencing!  Many of you have commented on what a helpful, simple and beautiful sample schedule Emily created as a tool for daily living (shown below). We are very grateful.    Thank you, Emily.

One question that has come up recently is about the use of media while our children are home all day, every day.  With schools closing, we have heard of some Waldorf Schools that are using media to continue to work with their grade school children.  Recently I saw that an early childhood teacher had a very brief video time with her children and they sang songs together.  This is a time for each of us to reach into our innermost core and determine for ourselves and our families about the whether and how of media use.

Gosh, I have to laugh at my memory of feeling like a rebel when I played classical music on my stereo for my little boys when I knew that live music, not recorded, was the best thing for the growing child.  I found myself justifying it as I watched them play amazing “stories” that they created based on the music.  The William Tell Overture elicited much excitement as they raced to jump on their rocking horses and rode with fury to their destination!  Rossini’s La Gaza Ladra brought forth an amazing journey through enchanted lands.  At the time the other children in our neighborhood listened to rock ‘n roll or loud and crazy children’s music.   Likely, as a young mom I justified what felt like a compromise to my high ideals about live music by telling myself that at least this recorded music was a cut above what everybody else’s children were listening to!   Aren’t we silly creatures, feeling we have to justify everything we do!

Can we allow ourselves, after we have brought our best consciousness to our principled ideals and the realities of our daily lives, to stand in our decisions without feeling guilty or measuring ourselves against someone else?  How are we striving?  It seems to me that there is a difference between completely letting go of the reins and taking on an “anything goes” attitude and consciously deciding how and if we are going to compromise in an area we typically would not.  For many of us, that is media.  For others it might be having ice cream for snack instead of veggies! What we know about the negative effects of media on the young child is still true.  If we do engage media as an occasional offering, it is helpful to remember this simple formula.  For every hour of media a young child is exposed to, we can best mitigate the effects by offering 2-3 hours of time in nature.  If you don’t live on the edge of a forest, that can be time in the backyard, chalk drawing on the driveway, building forts and whatever else your outdoor space allows.  Nature, outdoors, has its own sacred, healing qualities.  We all need it!   We are not promoting media as a good tool to use; however, this formula is a helpful one if you decide to use occasional media.

There are many beautiful tutorials out there offering numerous creative ideas we can do with our children during these days.  And, of course, the simplicity approach to homemaking emphasizes (as did Emily’s chart) lots of outdoor time balanced with involving the children in daily chores and such.  And her chart also included something called “academic” time for those with school-age children who may be involved with working with their teachers, some of them through online instruction.  Who would have ever thought these would be the questions we would be grappling with?!

We know that children (and we) thrive in rhythm.  Yet, almost everyone’s rhythm has been dramatically changed almost overnight!  Let us be kind to ourselves, to our friends and neighbors, and to each other as we each navigate our way into new rhythms that involve being home all the time!  Perhaps sometime in the coming days we can further this conversation about degrees of media usage and what people have found works in their homes.  For some, it will be no media at all. That’s how it was for me as a young mom decades ago (with the exception of classical music)!  For others, perhaps they have discovered a balance that works for them.    Here is where – those of you who know me know what I am going to say – Mister Rogers comes in.  He may be the singular human being who transcended the medium through which he worked.  When a child watches a half hour segment of Mister Rogers I think it is rare that they are then agitated for a little while afterward as can be typical with other media.

What is working for you?  We send you bucket loads of love and appreciation for the Big Changes you are navigating right now.  You are doing your best, and you will come out on the other side knowing more than when this all started!  Here is a favorite verse by Herbert Hahn, one of the first Waldorf teachers,  that carried me as a young Waldorf early childhood teacher, and I hope it may also inspire you:

“Remember daily that you are continuing the work of the spiritual world with the children.

 You are the preparers of the path for these young souls, who wish to form their lives in these difficult times.

The spiritual world will always stand by you in this task.

This is the wellspring of strength which you so need.”

Much love and respect to each of you,

Cynthia (on behalf of all of us at LifeWays)

Sara Michelson, owner of Sungarden Preschool, a LifeWays Representative Program in Atlanta, GA, offered some suggestions regarding media usage:

“I have a Waldorf grade 2 mom friend who is virtually media free at home (also single mom and running a business-she is a force!) and she found a 1/2 hour video that is all about kids moving-after 1/2 an hour, her daughter was sweating!  Cool!
Here is the link for their videos, their motto is ‘movement and mindfulness’. For pre-k through early grades. It’s about getting kids to move!
Here is a you tube video for one kind of finger knitting:
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) is an amazing resource for keeping tech in check at this time:
From CCFC above, a specific link for ‘School’s out, now what?’ offers different ideas and links for screen free activities and limiting media, with language for ‘let’s limit screen time.’:
The Chinese word for crisis is said to include two characters, one for ‘danger’ and one for ‘opportunity.’  What opportunities await families to discover that they have the resources within and outside of themselves to limit screen time, while bringing forward a whole other range of screen free fun and experiences for their children and families?”

5 thoughts on “Living Arts Daily: What About Screentime in the Days of Social Distancing?”

  1. Dear Cynthia, thank you so much for this article. As I am navigating all of this with my own family and class families, I am longing to serve in any capacity possible. I go back to the mantra of “Don’t let the ideal be the enemy of the good.” I sent out a recording of a spring song and the feedback from parents was gratitude and that the children lit up when they heard it. Now, if that isn’t wonderful, I don’t know what it is. Thank you to the LifeWays “starfish” ensemble!

    1. Thank you, Jerilyn, for reminding us of this important mantra. I applaud your intention to maintain connection with the families during this time.
      Blessings to you and your family!

  2. Jacqueline Beach

    This is truly helpful. Thank you ALL as ALWAYS for providing such rich, inspiring, and beautiful content and ideas for us. I will definitely share with my classroom families. XOXOXO Love to you all.

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