Confessions of a Screen Junkie on Screen-Free Weekby Jennifer Parker, Community Development Coordinator
I have a confession to make.
Next week's screen-free challenge is going to be tough.
Here's the challenge: No iPad, smart phone, laptop or texting. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Angry Birds, no Mad Men and no Downton Abbey. No media, no radio in the car, no magazines.
For one whole week: Monday, April 29 ~ Sunday, May 5.
Next week is all about raising our consciousness surrounding how much time children in particular spend absorbing mass media and in front of screens.
Now comes the confession.
The truth is, I cannot do a full media blackout for one week.
This annual, national screen-free week, organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, is endorsed by The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, President Barack Obama, and numerous public and private schools.
But as the Community Development Coordinator for The Denver Waldorf School I need to be on my computer, reading my email, and connecting with our community via our website, Facebook and Twitter.
Plus, this screen-free week comes during the last week before our school's largest annual fundraiser, The Denver Waldorf School 3rd Annual Walkathon, and the staff will be busy all week drumming up support online, emailing the community and putting out updates on Facebook.
So I can't give up screens entirely next week.
But I CAN do a modified "media diet" ~ avoiding media and screens when it's not necessary for work.
Therefore, next week, when I go home to my family, I intend to make some changes to my usual routine.
We have decided as a family to take up The Denver Waldorf School's Screen-Free challenge and avoid any forms of media or screen time when we're at home.
We have tentative plans to play cards in the evening together, get organized, plan out a few camping trips for this summer and clean our house. We may take turns taking a walk in the evening, and we have plans to get a babysitter for at least one night to go out for "date night." I'm hoping to pick up a knitting project I've been neglecting and get our family photo album in order. Our class is even tossing around the idea of a parents-night-out that week.
The weekend will be more eventful, with our spring community event The 3rd Annual Strides for Stars Walkathon on Saturday, May 4. There will be a Maypole, chair massages, a delicious $5 lunch, croquet and more.
Ours will be more a personal "media diet."
But I'm still hoping to reap some of the personal benefits that Dr. Thomas Cooper spoke about when he visited our school this Fall.
Dr. Cooper, author of “Fast Media, Media Fast” challenged families of The Denver Waldorf School to unplug from all media for a period of time. Cooper said such media free chunks in our lives would help us rediscover our personal identities, sharpen our senses, save us time and money, and help us tap into hidden talents.
Facing The Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education
The Denver Waldorf School is committed to raising awareness about the impact of screen-time and educating our community about alternatives that will support the healthy development of children and foster joy and peace within families. Too much screen-time is now also being linked to many childhood learning disorders, including loss of focus. Addiction centers are cropping up in the United States at an alarming rate to help wean people off media addictions.
Two studies by the Pews Research Center and Common Sense Media released in November found widespread belief among teachers that technology is affecting students’ ability to focus.
Waldorf schools around the world have recognized for years the impact that screen-time has on children, including difficulty in developing gross and fine motor skills, visual disorders, social and behavior problems, and other developmental problems.
As Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy and Co-Director of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, wrote in a recent article, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mind Over Machinery,” electronic media is a tool that should serve humans, rather than the other way around.
Gerwin asked the question: At what age do children gain the developmental skills necessary to handle what the media is throwing at them? If they are engaging in media, what are they not doing? The fear is that children who should be moving, creating their own mental pictures and engaging in lived experiences, are instead sitting in front of a screen, absorbing content created by others who likely did not consider what was developmentally appropriate for children.
According to academics, our technology and media-driven culture has had significant consequences for community building.
Political scientist Robert Putnam wrote in his book "Bowling Alone" that television has drastically eroded participation in civic enterprises, clubs and volunteer groups. While more people in the U.S. are bowling, they are "bowling alone," figuratively and literally, rather than in groups since the television set became a household fixture. This has had a huge effect on communities and volunteer groups.
Of course, mass media and technology aren't all bad. There is much to love about the technological tools that have become so much a part of our everyday experience. However, key is carving out time to unplug once in a while and reconnect with ourselves, our families, our friends and our community.
Modify screen-free week to suit your family: Could you do just one day? Could you unplug at home but stay connected at work? Get creative and think about ways you can incorporate the spirit of screen-free week into your family routine.
The Denver Waldorf School would love to hear what your family has planned.
What is your family doing for screen-free week?
We'd also love to hear your thoughts coming out of this experience for our upcoming Newsletter. Good luck, have fun and please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any insights on your experience!
Community Development Coordinator
25 April, 2013