Electronic screen media (TV, movies, video games, computers, tablets, smart phones, iPods, etc.) are a prominent feature of modern American life. The Waldorf educational approach practiced at Stone Bridge School asserts that, while educating about and using these devices is appropriate in later grades, exposure to electronic media in Grades K-5 detrimentally affects a child’s imagination, healthy development and social interactions. This position is corroborated by the American Academy of Pediatrics and current childhood research. Children are deeply affected by everything in their environment. Television, video games, and other electronic media have a lasting influence on children’s behavior, development, focus and attention span, and overall school performance.
Our faculty recognizes that media viewing falls in the domain of the family life and that it is the parents who decide what role electronic media will play in their children’s life. As part of the community of Stone Bridge School, a school of choice, we ask families to minimize their children’s exposure to screens and to commit to seeking out alternative activities fully involving their children’s capacities to develop a healthy mind, emotional life, and physical body. We strongly prefer that children in grades K-5 not use electronic media. We specifically ask that they not use electronic media on school days/evenings.
In order to facilitate well-informed decision making regarding the role of electronic media in your family’s life, we encourage you to explore the following articles.
Harmful Effects Of TV and Computer Games On Your Kids
Children, Adolescents, and the Media
Social Media's Impact on Students' Mental Health Comes Into Focus
Social media and the devices/technology through which we access them continue to proliferate in our society. Many children are growing up with significant internet exposure via YouTube, social media sites, smart phones, online gaming, and an ever-expanding array of choices. While there are power and convenience in these technologies, parents are increasingly challenged to monitor and manage their children’s media experiences. Parental concerns generally revolve around the amount of time online, age-appropriate content, and issues regarding privacy and potential victimization (e.g., cyberbullying).
The staff and faculty of Stone Bridge School share concerns about these technologies and their effects on our middle school students’ social, intellectual, and emotional development. While many of the students may be adept at using these technologies, their social skills and developmental level of maturity are not yet sophisticated enough for the on-line freedom frequently available to them. For these reasons, the SBS faculty suggests the following parental guidelines:
Establish family rules that clarify when and where a digital device is appropriate.
For example, consider requiring all family members to stow their digital devices when:
- Talking face-to-face with another person
- Sharing a meal together
- Attending school (or other) performances, meetings, and activities
- Doing homework
- Preparing for bed
The above practices emphasize the value of face-to-face, interpersonal interactions. It has been remarked that Stone Bridge graduates excel in their abilities to interact with others in a genuine, present, and articulate manner. It is our belief that this is supported by significant in-person interaction with other students and adults.
These practices also support your child’s ability to concentrate, requiring them to do homework without the distraction of texting, chatting, or online games. It is strongly recommended that digital devices not be allowed in bedrooms or bathrooms where their use cannot be monitored. Computers used for homework are best accessed in a public space (e.g., the living room, kitchen, or other dedicated study space).
Electronic lights have been shown to disrupt the chemicals in the brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep and sleep soundly. It is recommended that children “dock” their devices in common space chargers (away from temptation) at least thirty minutes before bedtime.
Supervise and monitor your child’s use of digital devices.
We feel that online behavior should be as exemplary as person-to-person behavior, and that important values (honesty, compassion, discretion) be maintained in both arenas. With the reality that online behavior and communications are generally not considered private, it is vital that our children understand that anything communicated online has the potential to be public forever. These are critical points to make with your child.
It is vitally important to supervise and monitor your child’s use of digital devices by knowing your child’s passwords and being aware of their online communications. As your child demonstrates digital responsibility and citizenship over time, you will likely negotiate trust and greater personal freedom, but we recommend retaining your prerogative to check in on their use of digital media.
We also acknowledge that monitoring children's use of 'smart phones' is extremely difficult. For this reason, we recommend that your child not have a phone for their personal use that connects to the Internet until 8th grade or beyond. For inspiration and ideas, visit the waituntil8th.org website.
Ask your child to seek your help immediately when something goes wrong.
Children make mistakes. This is how they (and we) learn. Assure them that they will not be punished for any online mistake or miscommunication, but that it is critical that they tell you about it. Help them to be comfortable seeking adult help to repair damaged relationships or address unintended consequences resulting from media misuse.
Model the digital behavior you expect from your child.
Children learn more from ‘what we do’ rather than ‘what we say.' They also have a keen sense for what is “unfair.” Consequently, it is critical that adults enforce the rules established for children and model responsible use of our own digital devices. Emphasize that digital devices, while powerful tools, can also be a distraction from being fully present in our lives.
The teachers and staff at Stone Bridge School value their partnership with parents regarding the well-being and education of the children. We encourage you to discuss your concerns, thoughts, and experiences regarding media usage with your child’s teacher(s) and/or school leadership. We can all benefit from the breadth of experience and knowledge that resides within our entire community and together ensure that our students leave Stone Bridge School with the skills, common sense, and values necessary for navigating the complexities of the wider world.
For more information: Tablet & Smartphone Bootcamp for Middle School Students