Divisive Devices: Preserving family connections in a high-tech world

Technology – it’s a dual-edged sword. Electronic devices were invented to make life easier, more entertaining, and help people feel more connected to the world – but they have also made life more complicated and isolated.  

While people may feel more connected through devices, they may be cutting themselves off by turning to devices for information and interaction they used to seek from others. 

In short, technology gives us an illusion of connectedness, but can really be incredibly isolating. 

If adults are having a tough time managing their relationships with screens, imagine the impact on our youngest souls. 

Screen use among American children averages three hours on television each day, increasing to five to seven hours per day on devices of any kind.  

Research has shown that excessive screen use can lead to obesity, sleep disorders, attention disorders, poor academic performance, lack of empathy and poor social skills, as well as depression and anxiety.  

Researchers believe the correlation between screen time and behavioral issues exists because “screen time steals real time” keeping children from engaging in activities that contribute to ideal growth and development. 

The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen use at all for children ages 2 and under, and only one hour for those between the ages of 2-5 spent as co-viewing time shared with a parent. Sufficient time should be created for children of all ages to experience free, unstructured play, outdoor time, and tech-free zones (such as the family dinner table), to encourage appropriate physical activity, exploration and face-to-face social interaction.   

These recommendations are consistent with the tech-free philosophy of Waldorf education, which emphasizes the importance of community, social relationships, experiential learning and hands-on exploration that can be hampered by the use of devices both in the classroom and at home.

Students at Sacramento Waldorf School interact during their handwork lesson, a vital component of Waldorf curriculum.

In a Waldorf school, children experience the world in real time and turn to others for information and assistance, rather than turning to a device. Waldorf education fosters community experience, interpersonal interaction, and collaboration, whereas screens tend to separate students to take part in what can often be a solitary activity. 

Sacramento Waldorf School strongly urges no media use at home through fifth grade and encourages that each family consider providing limited access for older students as well as drafting clearly defined family policies on screen use.

Navigating this world of technology with our kids can be overwhelming – especially when raising teenagers who are seeking independence and experiencing more hyper-connectivity. 

Kim John Payne, Speaker

Wishing to offer insights on this topic, Sacramento Waldorf School will be hosting a guest lecturer on February 13th, Kim John Payne, an educator, consultant, author, and family counselor. He has spent 27 years working with children, adolescents, families, educators, therapists, and educational associations around the world to guide and educate on topics dealing with social interaction, behavioral difficulties, mental health challenges, addiction, self-esteem issues, and “the vital role living a balanced, simple life brings.” 

Payne’s lecture is titled “How to Have Devices Not Be Divisive for Your Family,” and deals with the many ways in which technology use can impact child and family development, such as: 

  • How to maintain loving limits, warm, firm and calm discipline and strong family connections in a world where increasingly “screens are supreme” 
  • How to build focus, grit and good judgment so that our kids do not become overwhelmed with media but can shape their own self-esteem, hopes and dreams. 
  • How to encourage respect when negative images of adults pervade pop culture. 
  • Fitting in with friends – “Won’t my kids be disadvantaged if I limit screen time?” 
  • Aloneness vs. Loneliness – Helping kids know the difference. 
  • The alluring world of no boundaries that screen use develops and how this makes discipline and guidance difficult. 
  • Virtuous vs. Virtual – Building real and enduring relationships with people who will “be there” when times get tough. 

“I am not negatively anti-screen for kids, but passionately pro connection,” Kim says. “I am for connection to the things that matter like the natural world, friends, play, family and to their own beautiful but delicate emerging values.  Screens interrupt these crucial connections and that has got to be suspicious.”  

Payne’s lecture took place at Sacramento Waldorf School (3750 Bannister Rd., Fair Oaks) on Thursday, February 13, 2020, at 7 p.m. in Linden Hall.