Hey, Bainbridge families: It’s time to ‘Unplug’

Erika Biggs said she sometimes sees kids on the Madrona School playground feeling left out because some want to play “Star Wars,” but others haven’t seen the movie.

“So a parent has to sit down and watch “Star Wars” (with the child) to enable play,” she said.

It’s an emblematic, and problematic, scenario for parents who are trying to raise their children without the heavy influence of electronic media.

Because if kids are experiencing this pressure at Madrona School – a Waldorf school whose curriculum and philosophy pointedly encourage the reduced role of electronic media in family’s lives – then what are other parents at large struggling with?

What to do when TV shows are on hand 24/7; the Nintendo DS and Wii are constantly at the ready; and kids are forming social connections through online, not real, communities?

This is what the school hopes to help with in its March 14 program, “Unplug Your Kids, Plug into the Family,” with keynote speaker Gloria DeGaetano.

A couple of years ago Biggs, a Madrona School parent and volunteer, picked up DeGaetano’s “Parenting Well in a Media Age.”

Even though the book wasn’t written from the Waldorf perspective, Biggs thought it was aligned and complementary with the Waldorf philosophy, and “spoke to broader needs in the parenting community.”

In her talk, DeGaetano, also founder of the Bellevue-based Parent Coaching Institute, will address the ways in which parents and educators can stay connected with kids of all ages in a shifting, media-saturated world.

Key points will include protecting the family from media’s negative effects; addressing peer pressure; and reconnecting with real people instead of relying on virtual techniques like using Facebook and text-messaging.

And it’s not about judgment or right vs. wrong, Biggs said.

It’s about acknowledging that while attendees may not want to use modern media as primary drivers in their children’s education, these influences are a fact of life.

It’s also a conversation. After the talk, parents will break into discussion groups based on their children’s ages.

They’ll share tools and strategies and, in the spirit of things, connect.

“People can talk to each other instead of just go to a lecture and leave, and go, that was nice,” Biggs said.

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