‘Promoting TV use among young children not morally right’

Promoting TV use among young children in home and schools may not be morally right, according to an educator from New Zealand.

“During the first seven years, a child learns from imitation. Mass media, particularly television, does not allow a child to live like one. TV viewing is an invasion of childhood,” said David Simpson during a forum at Cinematheque.

Simpson is a retired Waldorf education system teacher who regularly visits the Philippines to help the Manila Waldorf School and Acacia Waldorf School.

The forum was initiated by Mission (Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies Through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking).

Instead of giving emphasis on television, homes and schools should promote play because this stimulates creativity, Simpson, said.

He added that young children should be taught through experience that the world is beautiful but television does not do this because it carries negative images like violence, wars and poverty, among others.

“Children don’t have the ability to discern what is good or bad for them,” Simpson said.

Simpson's theory is backed by the  American Academy of Pediatrics which said that the first two years are a critical time for brain development, thus TV viewing can hamper a child’s ability to explore, play and interact with other people resulting to poor physical and social development.

When they are older, too much TV time will make them passive, and will interfere with school and home work and relationships, said the AAP.

“In Europe, they are going to make TV watching for children ages three to four years old illegal,” Simpson said.

Simpson also countered the misconceptions that depriving children of TV use would make them unaware of the realities of life and would make them miss out a lot.

He said, children aged 12 and above are ready to be exposed to television.

Based on research, children not exposed to TV before age 12 are capable of picking up any skill without difficulty, he said. He added that since the child’s mind was not programmed to be passive at an early age, he will become a resilient, creative and disciplined adult.

Meanwhile, Jim Sharman, director of the Gamot Cogon School in Zarraga, Iloilo which uses the Waldorf (Steiner) approach to education, said that if a person is creative, he will have better chances of getting employed because the time will come when most jobs will require imagination and creativity.

“Some kids nowadays pass the exams because the answers are in multiple choice. But, ask them to read a paragraph and explain the theme, it would be different,” he said.

Sharman narrated that his child starting watching TV when he was 12 years old.  “By then, we already laid out the foundation,” he said.

In Waldorf, the early years’ education focuses on providing practical, hands-on activities and environments that encourage creative play. In the elementary school, the emphasis is on developing pupils' artistic expression and social capacities, fostering both creative and analytical modes of understanding. Secondary education focuses on developing critical understanding and fostering idealism.

The educational philosophy's overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence.

Disturbed with the effects of television on children and with more schools advocating the use of such medium in the classrooms, Councilor R. Leoni Gerochi mulls of an ordinance disallowing television in day care centers.

“Jason (Councilor Gonzales) is the City Council’s chairman on education and we talked about the education system in Iloilo City. We will try to send this message to them,” he said referring to the Department of Education.

“We will make it our advocacy. We will tell the teachers of the researches, that TV is not really essential,” he said.

Sharman concluded by saying, “Promoting education through TV is like fool’s gold. It looks like gold but it is not,” he said.*

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