Media Policy

Green Meadow Waldorf School is dedicated to nurturing each child’s capacity for creative imagination, independent thinking, and positive action.

What underlies our Media Policy

The GMWS has had a strong policy in place for many years regarding media use. The Zoom era has upset the slow introduction to devices, screen time, etc. Nevertheless, the principles underlying our media policy have not changed. We offer the following summary as background to our GMWS Media Policy. We understand that there are many thoughts and feelings about the appropriate use of technology for children. We offer this summary by the International Forum for Waldorf Education which summarizes Waldorf principles in relationship to technology use for children. The GMWS Media Policy is at the bottom of this document.

Navigating the Waves of Technology for a Healthy Childhood

Digital technologies are a part of modern life and deserve an appropriate place in education – both for teaching and for learning. Children develop their capacities to experience the world in successive, developmental stages – tactile, sensual, emotional, social, and cognitive. Accordingly, answers to the questions, “When?“ and “How?“ to learn about and use digital forms of media are crucial to the unfolding of a healthy childhood. 

Neither the naive use of digital technologies, nor a defensive rejection of them can lead to skillful and appropriate applications. What is needed is a holistic approach that leads the way from concrete, primary experiences of the world (sensory, motoric, and rhythmic activity) through familiarity with a range of diverse sensual media (picture books, printed text, handwriting, theater, etc.) to an understanding of digital technologies as tools for learning. 

Waldorf Education recognizes that these tools are intended to enhance particular human skills, but it takes time to develop them first. The more advanced a skill, the more one can take advantage of a device designed to enhance that skill. To the degree one is fluent in mathematical operations, for instance, a calculating device can be of immense help. The mischief begins when the calculator is introduced before the mathematical skill is developed, for then, the calculator will threaten to replace a skill rather than support it. 

In the case of digital devices – computers, tablets, smartphones, and the like – the skills they are intended to support are the cognitive functions of conscious human experience. These devices in effect simulate these functions. That means human capacities can be enhanced and benefited through the use of these devices. But the rule still applies: first develop the skill and only then use the appropriate tool to enhance that skill. In this light, the fundamental question regarding the use of digital technology in education must be: How do we develop the full palette of human experience so that digital technology can enhance rather than supplant it? 

Based upon principles underlying Waldorf pedagogy the International Forum for Waldorf Education drafted the following 10 principles for digital technology which the GMWS affirms as reflective of our own media policy:

Towards a “Healthy Childhood” in an Age of Digital Technology:

1. Children learn best from direct contact with people. 

2. Children learn differently at different stages of their development. 

3. Children need to move if they are to learn. The younger the child, the greater the need to be active and practically engaged. 

4. The development of gross motor skills precedes and enhances the development of fine motor skills. 

5. Children should complete, in large measure, the physical development of their perceptual or sense organs before these are applied to digital devices. 

6. Unscripted, child-initiated play is the most productive work of childhood, enabling children to develop their imaginations by exploring and experiencing the world around them.

 7. As young learners gain access to digital, screen-based technologies, it is vital that adults ensure children and young people are safe in the online world and that children learn to use these technologies with care and responsibility. Human powers of objective perception, discernment and thinking – the basis for freedom and responsibility – need time and space to mature (these capacities are developed in the third developmental stage–14+ years old).

8. Children need first to develop life skills since they form the basis for acquiring digital, screen-based skills. 

9. Education must be guided by pedagogical values, rather than economic or political interests. 

10. Learning is more about developing human capacities than accumulating and retaining information.

GMWS Media Policy

Children enrolled in the Early Childhood programs at Green Meadow should be given the gift of a media-free childhood. Teachers are available and willing to assist with transitions to a media-free environment. Consistent with Waldorf Education’s emphasis on learning through direct experience, children in the lower grades (1-5) should be allowed to develop new ideas and attitudes based on real personal interactions, without the distortion of mediation through technology.

Children in the lower grades should not be exposed to electronic media in their daily lives. They should not regularly watch television, movies, or videos, play video games, or use computers, tablets, cell phones. Additionally, exposure to radio and recorded music should be limited and age appropriate.   

Note to 5th grade parents: GMWS recognizes that by fifth grade in the Zoom era, many GMWS students may have appropriately used computers, tablets, and phones for remote learning purposes, and families may have watched movies together, listened to podcasts, used the internet for research or communication, and engaged in other mindful, limited, supervised usage of electronic media with their fifth graders. 

Grades 6 – 8

During Grades 6, 7, and 8, it is appropriate for students to have a gradual and guided introduction to the applications and use of electronic media. During these transition years, use and exposure to media should be very moderate, under clear parental guidance and participation, and not work to the detriment of the social and educational climate of the class. Media exposure can be a socially divisive influence in these years and often works directly against what is brought in the classroom.

Children in Grades 6, 7, and 8 should not be exposed to electronic media during the school week and should have, at most, limited exposure on weekends and vacations.

Any exposure in Grades 6-8 should be in keeping with the following:

Television and Movies: It is important that parents carefully select and monitor any visual and audio media to which their children are exposed. Movies rated R and many PG-13 movies are clearly inappropriate at this age; parents are urged to preview movies to make their own informed judgments. As a courtesy to other families and to nurture a positive social climate, parents should not allow children who are guests in their homes to be exposed to visual and audio media that has not been cleared with the visitor’s parents. Students in Grades 6-8 should not watch television or movies during the school week and should never have a television or computer in their bedrooms.

Video Games: Children of this age should not have access to video games during the school week and should never have unrestricted access to video games at any time, including online gaming sites or gaming platforms. Public gaming platforms introduce uncontrollable, and often inappropriate, situations and language, and video games can adversely impact students’ work, as well as the social life of the class. Please engage active limitations to your child’s gaming habits, including time spent playing.

Internet Access: Children of this age should not have unrestricted or regular access to the Internet. If they do access the Internet or use the computer, such access and use should be carefully monitored, for limited time periods, and never on school nights. Please protect computers in the home with passwords to control access. Do not allow computer use when a parent is not at home. Please locate computers in open areas of the home and never in children’s bedrooms.

Social Networks: No middle school student should have access to any social networking site. These sites (including but not limited to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, etc) limit their ability to interact in socially healthy ways, and research shows that social media adversely impacts self-image and self-esteem, particularly at this age.

Cell Phones: The recommended device at this age is a flip-phone or a device that can be used exclusively for telephone calls and for texts. Students should not be using devices like these as gaming devices or for internet access for any reason. If you need support in limiting features on your child’s smartphone please reach out to the school for help and suggestions.

Group Emails and Group Chats: Students should not make use of these technologies as forms of communication between classmates, as experience shows that such use creates serious social problems in the culture of the classroom. 

Music Players: Music players should be played over speakers and not with headphones. Listening with headphones at this age both isolates the listener and has real potential to damage children’s hearing.

High School

The media policy in the High School recognizes that it is appropriate for 15- to 19-year-olds to learn to critically approach and effectively use media. The school recognizes the importance of media literacy, including educating students to understand the technological principles underlying (and the social transformations resulting from) electronic media, and seeks to meet this need through a curriculum that includes Internet research skills, computer programming, the science behind new technologies, and the social consequences of the ongoing media revolution. 

However, because inappropriate or excessive use of electronic media undermines teenagers’ living relationships to other people, the world around them, and themselves, parents should continue to monitor and limit their teenagers’ exposure to electronic media and maintain an open dialogue with their teenage children about the role of media in their lives. 

Internet and video game use can become addictive, consuming time that could otherwise be spent in more productive pursuits, and can give rise to increasing emotional and intellectual detachment. Social networking sites (current examples of which are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) pose a significant and well-documented threat, not only to students’ safety, but also to their ability to interact in socially healthy ways. Email, instant messaging, chat rooms, and text messaging can create serious social problems in the culture of any school, workplace, or community.

Parents should monitor and limit student exposure to media, locating computers and video games in open areas of the home. It is important to maintain a space of media-free quiet for the challenging and creative schoolwork of the High School, particularly during the school week.

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