By Richard Freed. Child Psychiatrist.
My clinical practice is increasingly a forum for children and teens who suffer because their lives are spent with digital machines, and little else. These kids are often in great emotional pain, fail school despite being capable students, or are caught up in destructive addictions to video games, social media, and phones. It’s heartbreaking to see these children and teens suffer from symptoms that could be prevented if our society better understood the effects of wired lives on kids’ health and well-being.
More recently, the world is recognizing the danger of raising children with lives focused around screens, as the often tragic consequences are now highlighted in the popular press. This contrasts with the prior decade in which our mainstream culture was caught up in the supposed promise of expanding kids’ use of digital devices. During this earlier period, outside of academic journals, there was virtually no discussion of the adverse effects of children’s overuse of screens. One clear exception: Waldorf Schools and their media and tech policies.
For decades, Waldorf Schools have been prescient in naming the risks of children growing up immersed in problematic screen and phone content. Moreover, Waldorf Schools have also highlighted a non-content issue that is often overlooked: how kids’ lives spent with screens displace vital childhood developmental experiences. Interestingly, while Waldorf School media/tech policy was considered conservative years ago, it is increasingly recognized as consistent with what science says are the lives kids need.
Nonetheless, powerful tech industry and marketing forces are more determined than ever to sell parents and schools on the benefits of putting kids before screens and phones. These messages are compelling and contribute to common myths about children’s screen and tech use. In this article, I will outline a number of these digital-age myths and illustrate how science proves their undoing. We will also see how Waldorf Schools and their media policies provide a powerful antidote to these myths and point the way towards the childhoods young people need.
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