Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Family Field Trip to the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo - Part 3

Media's Influence on Children: Tools for Navigating a Commercial Culture

Ahhh yes!  This was the workshop I had been waiting for, longing for, dying for!  Ok maybe not dying for but it was definitely a topic that I was passionate about educating my family on.  When I had first glanced at the schedule of workshops the first time I viewed the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo website, I practically screamed with joy that this was going to be one of the topics at the expo!  And boy was I glad that I had signed my husband and myself up for it.  Actually several of the families also joined us in this workshop too so there was definitely a peaked interest within our village surrounding the topic of media's influence on our children.

I was already convinced when our son Andrik was born that I didn't want TV, video games, computers (basically anything electronic) to be the substitute for my actual presence in co-creating a healthy, happy and creative environment for our son.  And yes that meant not putting my son in front of a TV to "babysit" him while I do other things.  Yes, I know getting dinner ready is an important task that needs to be done but it truly can get done without involving electronics.  It is possible, trust me...when one of us isn't around to play with our son, we either have him in his play area (which is a gated area that my husband playfully likes to call the "Octagon") or we wear him in the baby carrier.  There have been many a day where we've carried him while doing dishes, preparing dinner or even vacuuming to name a few.

Before I go on a tangent and bore you with details of my daily chores at the homestead, let's continue onto the topic at hand, shall we?  Okay, where were we - ahh yes, the media's influence on children.  This well-informed workshop highlighted the following:

  • The benefits and risks associated with media's influence on children across the developmental spectrum 
  • How to navigate the challenges of parenting in a commercial culture 
  • How to make conscious choices for our children and family based on individual values rather than societal, cultural and peer pressure.
So what are the risks associated with media's influence on children across the developmental spectrum?  Not only does electronic media do harm to the physical effects with the developing child and the questionable content of much of the programming but it is also believed to seriously hamper the development of the child's imagination - which to some professionals, such as the Waldorf institute, believe that the imagination is central to the healthy development of the individual.  Waldorf teachers are not alone in this belief either.  Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern with the effect of television on young children.  For instance, Endangered Minds by Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn.

To back up this theory was one of the guest speakers, Mimi Devens.  As a Waldorf trained counselor and psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles, the issues Devens most commonly addresses are: overcoming anxiety and depression, developing compensatory strategies and improving cognitive functioning for those with attention issues, navigating life transitions and working in harmony with children's temperament.  

Mimi made a very valid point about children who watch shows with characters.  Most children when playing with certain dolls/toys tend to be stuck in the pre-programmed way that these dolls/toys are "supposed" to sound like and act vs. using their imagination and creating their own scenarios of how they prefer the doll/toy to sound like and act.  Have you ever heard a child when playing tell another child "No that's not how Elmo does it! Elmo does it this way!"  When Mimi pointed a similar analogy to us, it all made so much sense.  I mean I was already on board with protecting Andrik's precious brain from the media but this workshop just reiterated even further to stand strong with our decision.  

Even the infamous Albert Einstein knew the importance of the child's imagination.  When asked how to encourage intellectual development in our children, he responded with "Read them fairytales". 

Mimi went on to more or less say, that there is balance to everything and just like with everything else in life, if you feel yourself getting frustrated or overboard (especially with your parenting philosophies), to take a moment to re-center yourself and be more easeful about things.  She went on to say that the negative energy that you put into your home can be more toxic than what you're striving to achieve.  A good example of this as she described was when she had her first baby, she was so worried and stressed out about the bed mattress not being organic that it didn't dawn on her (until later) that what was really affecting the environment wasn't per se the toxins from her mattress, but the poisonous energy she herself was projecting outwards by her anxiety over the situation.  That right there resonated so clearly for me and I allowed that to really marinate in my brain and in my heart because sometimes I can be a stickler when it comes to certain things so I was really grateful to hear this.  Even with me writing this now helps me to relax and release any thoughts I'm holding onto.  

Another great message she relayed was "Don't Worry. Be Awake!" (singing to the melody of "Don't Worry.  Be Happy").  Hmmmmm that would be a great motto for everyone to sing!  If only more people were more conscious in the world.  Well that's where the Family Love Village comes in because as our motto says, we're all about connecting one conscious village at a time! 

There was another guest speaker, Alessandra "Lisa" Profumo M.A.  A mother of three and an Educational Psychologist with thirty years experience. She has taught in both Waldorf and mainstream institutions and has given workshops and lectures locally and nationally on a wide range of topics including children in crisis, how to nurture the bridge from home to school and curriculum studies for teachers.  Lisa has worked as a mentor, consultant, and advisor for both schools and families alike. She is currently a Teacher at Highland Hall, as well as at the Waldorf Institute of Southern California.  Unfortunately by that time it was already past 2pm and my family hadn't eaten lunch yet so we couldn't stay for Lisa's presentation. 

For further resources on media's influences on our children, I found the following resources very interesting and helpful:
  1. Quol Kids (a very thorough explanation of TV and child development)
  2. Shaping Youth
  3. Free Range Kids
  4. Mommy Festo (a thought-provoking post from a mother's point of view)
  5. Can I Have Your Attention Please (an interesting read on children and media multi-tasking)
While some of us were picnicking, a few of the other villagers attended another well-informed workshop on "Vaccines - Risks & Benefits" - which also had a stellar panel that included Dr. Bob Sears, Dr. Jay Gordon, and Dr. Lauren Feder.  My family however didn't go to this one because we have done alot of our own research through books, dvds, seminars and the internet and had already decided to opt out of vaccinating our son due to the harmful chemicals that are in the vaccines (i.e.thimerosal/mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, and MSG to name a few) and the effects it can cause.  Plus, it was already 2pm and the alien noises coming from my family's tummies meant it was way overdue for lunchtime!  

To learn more about your choices with vaccinating, here are several links to review (please note, there are alot of great books & resources out there, these were just a few websites readily avilable that I found quite helpful): 
  1. Holistic Med (an excellent website with a plentitude of vaccine resources)
  2. Doctors Hide Vaccination Side Effects
  3. Dr Tenpenny
  4. HPA - The Alliance for Holistic Family Health and Wellness
  5. Swine Flu Vaccination As Hot as Tickle Me Elmo
  6. Shirley's Wellness Cafe (For those who have furry babies, this is a great resource on the effects with pet vaccinations)
So while some of the villagers went to this workshop, the rest of us setup a picnic underneath a couple of shady trees and enjoyed the beautiful day, shared food, stories and laughter.  

Phew...so this is it.  The end to my Whole Children Whole Planet Expo Trilogy.  It took a little time getting this out to you but as you can see, there was ALOT of information to download on my end so that I could give you the best information that the Family Love Village received that day.  This was indeed a great experience with a plethora of knowledge and amazing resources for our village (and now for you and your family, as well)!  I can't wait to attend next year.  Heck, maybe the Family Love Village we'll even have our own booth by that time!  Who knows - the possibilities are endless!

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