Slow Media Modern Waldorf & Montessori Kids Can Watch!
Figuring out what constitutes “slow media” for Waldorf-inspired education is not easy. But media that Waldorf kids can watch does exist! However, the criteria for what media is acceptable to expose kids to is so vastly different for media-conscious parents than the typical age recommendations. Common Sense Media, for instance, offers age recommendations for kids, but it sometimes disregards important factors in a piece of media, like subtextual themes, subtle violence, and irreverence for human life and dignity. This is a problem that so many media recommendation aggregators for parents have. They provide recommendations that are too generic to be of any good.
I was homeschooled by media-conscious parents who, until I was ten, let only a few choice pieces of film and television into my life. But that was in the 1990s, and VHS cassettes were still top-dog technology! Now, it’s nearly impossible for parents to curtail their child’s media interaction—especially since many parents are so busy and stressed that being able to place the kid in front of a screen is one of the few ways for the basic tasks of life to get done. And that’s not even considering all those parents who have to work from home!
For kids, all media is educational: anything they’re exposed to will be something that helps them become who they will be—tomorrow, as well as later in life. Looked at this way, media for kids is all about finding the right balance between media that is engaging while also supporting skills in introspection, media literacy, and reverence for life. This is where a concentration on slow media, for younger kids especially, becomes so vital.
What are media-conscious parents supposed to do?
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement published guidelines that pointed out the importance of parental guidance for the media kids interacted with:
“Parental monitoring is a key factor, since the research studies show that increasing guidance from parents is at least as important as simply reducing media violence. Children may learn negative behavior patterns and values from many other experiences as well as TV programs, and parental guidance is needed to help children sort out these influences and develop the ability to make sound decisions on their own.”
And Renee Hobbs, expert in media literacy, made this point:
“Just because our students can use media and technology doesn't mean they are effective at critically analyzing and evaluating the messages they receive. Students need a set of skills to ask important questions about what they watch, see, listen to and read. Often called media literacy, these skills include the ability to critically analyze media messages and the ability to use different kinds of communication technologies for self-expression and communication.”
However, just as media can have extremely detrimental effects on a child’s development, it can have positive effects as well! The key is ensuring that children are accessing only that sort of media that is appropriate to their development, will offer them tools for greater self-awareness and compassion, and will help imbue them with an advanced sense of reverence for the world around them. Reverence, especially, is a vital factor in understanding a modern approach to Waldorf-inspired education. With parental guidance, sound training in media literacy, and a deep concentration on the experience of compassion and reverence, it is possible to bring media into a child’s life in a wholesome and holistic way.
Criteria for inclusion
The most important thing to note about this list is that not all shows should be viewed in a vacuum. I’ve provided important details and a unique rating system to help parents explore this content and decide if it is appropriate for their kid. However, children don’t all develop at the same pace, and the experience and media that a child accesses elsewhere in their life may cause them to have unexpected experiences with any new media!
It’s vital that parents check in with their child and ask them questions that help the child enunciate their thoughts and feelings regarding the media they are exposed to. Likewise, parents should attempt to interact with their child’s media themselves whenever possible, and be present to discuss things with the child that the child may not understand.
Whatever you do, don’t assume that just because something is labeled as “good for kids” it actually is! So much of the content created for children, especially these days, features all manner of implicit violence, humor, social norms, and political subtext that kids simply aren’t able to parse on their own (and which will become part of their unconscious processing of the world). Likewise, the pace of so much media “for children” tends to be extremely hectic, reinforcing unfortunate attention issues as well as behavioral issues when that hectic pace is attached to scenes of action and, or, humor.
Luckily, some great options for kids do exist, and you can find them here!