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"Media Restriction" at Waldorf

Television is evil. If you don't believe that, you've never sat through an episode of Charles in Charge. On a serious note, to this day, my daughter is strictly prohibited from watching TV in our household, and whenever I can control it. Every day in our television-free household has been a reward since we eliminated television upon Waldorf's recommendation and insistence.

Update: As our daughter is older now, our family has reintroduced limited television. This is not unusual in some Waldorf households as their children grow older.

Kill Your Television

There are a jillion good reasons to turn off your TV. If you can't find a reason at the Kill Your Television web site, you truly are a lost soul. Rather than catalog the many rational reasons for this which can be found at the link above, let me evangelize:

If you don't believe me, go read the above web site again.

What do Experts Say?

Eliminating television is a serious decision. As you consider turning off "the boob tube," it's helpful to familiarize yourself with what experts say about television.

Advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

In advocating the elimination for school-age children Waldorf educators often cite the expert advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics for children under two years of age. The AAP discourages ALL television for very young children under age two! This data from the AAP might even be referenced in your Waldorf school's parent handbook.

If you agree with Waldorf that the AAP is credible when it comes to understanding the impact of television on children, you might want to check out the AAP's expert opinion on television and children over the age of two. You can find more information on the impact of television on children, as well as recommendations on how to handle TV at the AAP web site. These recommendations include helping your children plan their TV viewing in advance, and being aware of the shows your children watch.

AAP recommendations on TV for children over 2:

Remember, these are experts. Waldorf trusts them, and you should, too. Review their advice and practice it!

Kaiser Family Foundation

The Kaiser foundation just released, Children and Electronic Media a fantastic report on the impact of electronic media on children.

More Trends in Electronic Media for Kids

Ahriman and Television

Eliminating television is not only a practical concern. There are spiritual reasons for eliminating television. Some members of the Waldorf community believe that a being called Ahriman is especially present in electronic media such as computers and the Internet. This might help explain why Waldorf is so adamant about eliminating television for children, even when the American Association of Pediatrics says limited TV is OK for kids over 2 years of age.

Steiner says:


Bust of Ahriman by Rudolf Steiner

...the Ahrimanic influence has been at work since the middle of the fifteenth century and will increase in strength until an actual incarnation of Ahriman takes place among Western humanity.

Now it is characteristic of such things that they are prepared long in advance. Ahrimanic powers prepare the evolution of mankind in such a way that it can fall a prey to Ahriman when he appears in human form within Western civilization — hardly then to be called `civilization' in our sense — as once Lucifer appeared in human form in China, as once Christ appeared in human form in Asia Minor. It is of no avail to give oneself illusions today about these things. Ahriman will appear in human form and the only question is, how he will find humanity prepared.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Ahrimanic Deception

Modern-day Concern About Ahriman and Television

Modern-day Waldorf educators are still very concerned about Ahriman, children, and technology. Just recently, Helmut von Kugelgen, a leading Waldorf educator, spoke about this concern at the Waldorf International Kindergarten Conference:

"We must also be active in the consciousness soul when we struggle to balance the forces of evil, Lucifer and Ahriman , who are always present in the picture of the human being.

...Before the time of radar, television , and computers, Rudolf Steiner prophesied that these elemental beings would enter our time with an abundance of inventions. He told of the three forces of magnetism, electricity, and nuclear energy that these beings used. This does not mean that these inventions should be avoided -- they belong to the age of the consciousness soul -- but it is most important that enough weight be put on the other side of the scales. ...Today we are faced with a huge problem of balance. These inventions, which increasingly fill our world, need to be balanced by the faculty of imagination. This is the secret to how we can deal with the forces of evil.

... there is an inner path of schooling that enables us to be in command of this tendency and to guide these forces in such a way that they become consciousness soul forces."

"Threshold Experiences of Children and Adults in the Present Time"
Helmut von Kugelgen, Director
International Waldorf Kindergarten Association
Gateways, Fall/Winter 1999, Issue 37
Waldorflibrary.org

You can familiarize yourself with this phenomenon at Google: Ahriman television waldorf OR steiner. You can see an example of this concern at waldorfresources.org, in a warning about "Ahrimanic forces."

WaldorfHomeSchoolers.com has an alternative view on Waldorf's media restriction.

Alternatives to Television

Eliminating television isn't easy. Often television is used as an "electronic babysitter." Most people have had the experience of using the TV to subdue their child while cooking dinner, doing laundry, or taking an important phone call. It's even harder in single-family homes, where there is no second parent to turn to when you need some time to yourself.

In order to be successful with eliminating television, you need to REPLACE television with other activities that more fully involve your child. You can find lots of ideas on keeping your children active at home and in your community in OpenWaldorf's Waldorf Parent's Survival Guide.

Media Literacy

If you are truly concerned about the impact of television on your child, eliminating television isn't enough. You also need to educate your children about media, so they can combat these negative influences. This is called "media literacy." Parents who are especially concerned about the impact of media on their children should know how to address the subject with their children.

There are a number of resources online for helping you educate your child about television:

Computers and Video Games

Waldorf's media restriction extends to computers and video games. For a better understanding of the basis for this restriction, read "Computers in Education," by Eugene Schwartz.

Another Waldorf perspective comes from the Alliance for Childhood, an Anthroposophist organization to promote the Anthrposophical view of child development they issue a "Warning: PCs may be a danger to kids."

Computers and Ahriman

You can also read at Anthroposophy.com that "Ahriman may incarnate macrocosmically in our computers," which would certainly create serious problems for children.

You also might want to read The Computer and the Incarnation of Ahriman, published by Rudolf Steiner College Press, the center of Waldorf Teacher Training on the West Coast U.S. The book:

"Examines computer technology in the light of modern logic, mathematics, philosophy of science, and artificial intelligence. Further, he applies his studies in spiritual science, especially of Rudolf Steiner's concept of ahriman, to an examination of the problems encountered with the use of computers."

You can order the book from the Rudolf Steiner College Press Catalog (PDF).

Positive Views of Electronic Media

In light of presenting a balanced view of electronic media, not all experts take a fundamentalist view on the impact of media on children.

More information on computers and video games at Waldorf!

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For Families That Allow Electronic Media

Not all Waldorf families are electronic media free! For those Waldorf households that allow electronic media, there are tools to assist you in maintaining parental control of your child's exposure to TV, video games, and computers:

Questions for Parent's Night or School Tour

Electronic Media Restriction

  1. What are the risks associated with children watching television?
  2. Is this damage serious or irreperable? How likely is it for children who watch television to be seriously damaged? How will it affect their ability to function as adults? Can it be reversed?
  3. Did any of the faculty watch television when they were children? How have they been affected? How did they reverse any damage? If the risk to healthy adult development is so serious, do you screen your teachers for this? Why or why not?
  4. Waldorf cites the American Association of Pediatrics' (AAP) assessment of eliminating television for children under 2-years old. Is the AAP trustworthy in their overall assessment of television? Do you agree with the AAP's television guidelines for chidren over 2?
  5. Are there any other good reasons a Waldorf educator would want to prevent children from watching television?
  6. Is it possible that a being called Ahriman is present in electronic media?
  7. Questions about different kinds of electronic media activites:
    • Is it OK if I print web pages, and read them to my child like a book?
    • Is it OK if I allow my child to watch home videos of family and friends? Can my child view images from my digital camera on a computer screen?
    • Is it OK if I allow my child to use email to keep in touch with close family members who are geographically distant?
    • Is it OK if my child listens to recorded music or stories? Can my child listen to the radio at home or in the car?
    • Is it OK if my child talks on a cell phone?
  8. Is it OK if I use my own judgement with electronic media from time-to-time, based on special circumstances?
  9. If my child mentioned a TV show, movie or video game, how would the teacher handle that?
  10. Have any parents at the school ever been disciplined for not enforcing the Waldorf media restriction? How have different types of situations been handled? Have any families ever been asked to leave?

You can print out the Master Checklist for parents, and bring it with you to school.

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