This post was written by guest Mary Rothschild, facilitator of Witness for Childhood in collaboration with CCFC. Mary, who is the mother of 2 daughters and has worked with pre-school age children and served parents and teachers of children birth to age 8 for fifteen years through Healthy Media Choices.
A friend of mine, mother of two small children, calls this the “cuddling in” time of year. The holidays are over and life settles into a regular pattern and (in our part of the country, at least) the short days and cold weather keep family closer to home. It’s a good time for reflection.
If the bill has yet to come due for the gifts given a mere month ago (where are they now?) this is a good time to make strategies for more intentional getting and giving for the coming birthdays and, eventually, for those holidays again.
That’s not so easy; how do families get the local support they need for that intentionality?
What I hear is that parents talk to each other about concerns that the ways they’re spending their time and money don’t adequately reflect their values. Those friendships form bedrock for many. Then, there are the occasional workshops at school or house of worship around violence or representation of sexuality in screen media.
I’d like to reflect here on another resource: faith and humanist communities, by which I don’t just mean the major religions and humanist organizations, but whatever group gathers specifically for a connection with values and beliefs. There are groups of parents that align around specific parenting issues: breastfeeding or natural parenting, for instance, that might be included. It is difficult to find a term to cover them all.
Don’t such groups afford an ideal situation for focusing on these issues? Here are some questions, for each to ponder about their own circumstance, to start off our conversation:
• Is there recognition of the fact, in religious education curricula or parent workshops, that exposure to screen media can impact the spiritual development of young children, not just because of violence and representations of sexuality, but because it cuts into quiet time and free play, which area essential for children’s development?
• Do families have a venue for sharing strategies about situations that arise about play dates as well a birthday and holiday gifts?
• Stories from family and culture are great alternatives to the popular culture story. Do your children hear those stories of strength, sacrifice, and fulfillment without material wealth?
• Are any community resources for parents usually framed as being for mothers? Including all the adults who live with the child makes changes easier and more effective.
• Does the community take advantage of opportunities such as Screen-Free Week and/or encourage families to establish less formal and more consistent “Media Sabbaths” where all electronics are turned off, even for a couple of hours a week? Is that discussion happening?
• Do you feel supported by your community in your attempts to give your child a commercial-free childhood? If not, what could you do to elicit that support (and find others who are feeling the same way)?
• Faith and humanist communities have long been effective agents for change on a national and global level. Is activism around the commercialization of childhood on the agenda in your community?
• If your community does provide this kind of support, how is it going and what resources might your share?
The essential question is this: Is the impact of screen media on young children’s spiritual development a burning issue for your community? If not, why not?
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