(These are my notes from a hugely important lecture held in Chicago at Congregation KINS about Internet Safety. The lecture was for adults. Speakers included Rabbi Harvey Well, Rabbi Zev Cohen, Rabbi Norman Lowenthal and Rabbi David Pelcovitz.)
Associated Talmud Torahs presents CAUGHT IN THE WEB: Modern Technology and Family Safety.
Rabbi Harvey Well
We would like to invite everybody to come in and find their seats so we can begin our program- I have the distinct honor of welcoming you all here to this most important session- sponsored by the ATT, Rabbanim in the community, day schools, and entitled Caught in the Web: Modern Technology and Family Safety. Several people here I’d like to acknowledge- Moreinu Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Levin Shlita- driving force in structuring this conference- promotes the achdus that Chicago is known for and it is certainly an honor and a pleasure to have him here to participate in this context- also acknowledge presence of Rabbi Cohen who you will hear from in a few moments- involved in planning session as well- I have to acknowledge the two individuals who put this conference together, who put this entire day together, Chani Friedman and Mrs. Biber- (clapping) very little for the good of the community gets done without their input and without their kochot- now is a wonderful time to thank you- want to welcome our two speakers, Rabbi Lowenthal from Baltimore, Rabbi Pelcovitz from New York, appropriately introduced by Rabbi Cohen, each one in turn. Trust that results of this conference will be taken to heart- topic that concerns us all, one that every parent should be sensitive to- find this evening both meaningful and instructive- thank you very much for coming and now I have the pleasure of introducing to you Rabbi Cohen.
Rabbi Zev Cohen
(He thanks) Rabbi Matanky, mora d’asra of KINS, Rabbi Well, ATT and as we mentioned Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Biber who deserve a tremendous yasher koach for all that they did-
“Mah tovu alecha yakov”
Chazal explain, Rashi quotes our houses and homes are special. Our homes in Chicago are also special. They are full of chesed, full of tzedaka, full of Torah, full of tznius, full of shalom bayis. So why are we here?
A number of years ago in this same shul several times unfortunately we gathered to say tehillim because there was a milchama- there was war, there was sakanah- we gathered together- today we’re also gathering together because of milchama. Rashi says on top of daf hei, amud alef in Brachot that fighting the yetzer hara is a milchama- the difference is that a regular milchama is a milchama against the guf, against the body, physical harm- this war that we are presently involved in is against the neshama, against the ruchnius and spirituality of all of us.
Targum Yonasan ben Uziel on “mah tovu” says it refers to batai midrashot
Talmud Yershulashmi says it's referring to batai knasiyos
We are a city of batim, of homes, with baalei-batim, with the owners of those homes. We are a city with batei midrashos, with roshei yeshiva and roshei kollel, principals who are heads of all the ____ of Torah. We are a city full of batei knasiyos, full of Rabbanim who are leading all of our shuls. Tonight’s goal- we hope b’ezrat Hashem yisbarach that in conjunction with all of the Rabbanim all of the manhigim of all of our shuls and batei midrashot and all our schools together with all of our parents we should be able to come up with a way to ensure that there be no child in our entire city who has access to unsupervised Internet. Our speakers tonight will help us to actualize that goal and after this b’ezrat hashem yisbarach together as a kehillah we will be able to reach our potential and attain that goal.
I’d like to conclude by adding one more point- Rabbosai, tonight we’re here to meet about our children. I would be remiss if I would not mention that we’re here to discuss our children but in no way does that mean this problem is a problem only for our children. There is not a Rav in this room who has not been faced with the dilemma of adults falling into the tremendous nisyanos, tremendous tests, tremendous problems that there are vis-à-vis the internet.
I was asked to speak tonight introductory remarks representing R’ ____ Shlita and R' ____ Levin and R Schwartz shlita, Beis Din, all the rabbanim and all the principals- I would like to make a bakasha, request- I can’t even see around the room, light is shining in my eyes, not referring to anyone in this room- I can guarantee you that there are people in our city who are addicted and have terrible problems with the internet. I ask them for a personal favor: before your children or your spouse discovers what you have done and then come to me and beg me how to figure out how to tell that spouse or that parent what they have done- and I don’t know how to do it without incriminating that spouse or that children- I ask the people who are having a problem/ nisayon, go speak to your Rav, go find a therapist, don’t wait for your children/ spouse to figure out the nisyanos you are going through. You CAN be helped; there are real, wonderful people in the city who can help.
Tonight’s speakers have spoken many, many times around our country about this topic- safeguarding our children, awareness interaction, Rabbi Norman Lowenthal, general studies principal of the Talmudic academy in Maryland, Baltimore where he works closely w/ parents and children to facilitated- Camp Simcha, Camp Chai Lifeline volunteer, Love and Logic, national presenter- first speaker. [On the pamphlet, it states M.S. Ed, MSW, Principal, General Studies, Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, MD]
Rabbi Dr. David Pelcovitz- psychologist, presents nationally on topics of interest to parents, etc- presented to teachers/ principals of our city- ____ at Azrieli Graduate school in Yeshiva University in New York. Go back many years together, learned together at Long Beach- he will present on External Influences: The Balance Between Love and Limits. [On the pamphlet, it states PhD, Psychologist, Gwendolyn & Joseph Strauss Chair in Jewish Education, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Yeshiva University]
Their job tonight, Rabbosai, is to help our city maintain its kedusha and help us lead the way to become a city that can proclaim without exception “mah tovu aholecha yaakov misheknosecha yisrael” as a city, let us begin to show our children, to show other cities and to show ourselves (our souls?) how to serve the Borei despite these incredible nisyanos.
We should all be zoche collectively to be m’kadesh shem shamayim b’rabbim- please turn cell phones off, ma’ariv afterwards- zoche collectively tonight to be matzliach
Rabbi Norman Lowenthal (Speech entitled- Safeguarding our Children- Awareness into Action)
Take a moment to allow those waiting in the back to find seats.
B’rshus roshei yeshiva, rabbanim, menahalim, m’chanchei and distinguished members of the Chicago community. It is a daunting task to speak on this topic but not for the reasons you’re thinking- basically two types people in the room
1. Those who have the Internet in their house and can’t imagine not having it
2. Those who don’t have it and can’t imagine having it
I am not here to address should have, could have been, but here to address the reality of what is.
What you need to know and what you need to know in order to protect your children.
The goal is to raise awareness and to provide information that will empower parents to be more proactive and to protect their children from insidious danger- I am not here as computer expert, internet developer, computer programmer- I am an eighth grade rabbi for many years, introduced to this topic the hard way- started to hear from my talmidim what was going on- my school made gathering for parents, but the only parents that showed up were computer experts who were simply curious to hear what we would say.
[He tells a story] Former student of mine called up out of the blue and said hello, how are you and then says he is getting together with a man he met online tomorrow to perform a specific issurei d’oraisa. So I told the parents what he was planning to do and they stopped him. He said he would never talk to me again- I said, "I understand but I think you called me so that I would stop you."
That is just one story, every Rav, menahel, rosh yeshiva can tell you they have worse stories.
Worst is that children often feel that they have nobody to tell
We have all heard the news stories, dangers of internet, and there’s some in this room who know more than others, consider themselves experts and some not; Mesilas Yesarim says “most of my words…truths revealed to all, so is forgetfulness in relation to them very common” [ he's explaining that is how his talk will be- like that quote from Mesilas Yesharim]
Explaining dangers, raising awareness, many things young people are involved in- how they get into trouble, some of the signs, what can be done
Famous analogy I think I originally heard from Dr. Pelcovitz
There's a frog. Now, you put that frog in a beaker of scalding water; it'll jump out to save its life- take the same frog and drop it into a beaker of tepid water and slowly heats the water up to the boiling point, the frog will never realize it’s in mortal danger and will boil to death
Media functions same way in our homes- what seems like safe, tepid water = boiling water.
Don’t mean to minimize obvious benefits – (quotes someone) if not for the danger, we would consider the obvious blessings.
Goal is not to depress ; the goal is not for you to walk out of this room and say, "It's hopeless!" but to empower with this awareness and information necessary to meet this significant challenge and move from awareness to action- to perpetuate and protect
[there's a slideshow- this is the first slide]
Kaiser Family Foundation Study-
Lives of 8 to 18 year old, remarkable thing that they found. Overall use of media in a day = 6 hours and 20 minutes of internet, movies, media, magazines- why would it stay exactly the same? Only hypothesis they could come up with is that there are no more hours in the day- using every hour of the day they can possibly use
Interesting finding- total media consumption when added up is an hour more to day, children are multitasking, many things at once which looks like this – [switches to new slide in slideshow, you see a kid's room with the following things labeled- how a kid multitasks] boom box, tv, fax, cell phone, hot mail, Netscape radio, school essay, yahoo games, IM, print
Jewish schools I surveyed- many of the numbers- same data that secular researches found:
- 96-100% computer in the home
- 68-96% use computer for homework
- 78-88% computer used for game
- 63-90% can access internet from home (in my notes I mistakenly typed 639%; I assume this is what I meant)
- 52-90% accessed from a friend’s home
- 64-77% accessed internet elsewhere outside of the home
Percentage who could access outside of home was much greater than those who could access inside of home- father’s work, library, asked those questions in the survey.
So people say to me that’s not scientific, doesn’t relate to my school- not quantitative research, doesn’t prove anything-you're right, it's qualitative research, but it means something- if this was your child’s school, what would this mean to you? When I’ve spoken to Hassidic communities, they’ll say that it’s not like that in my community- but is it [internet usage] zero- no it’s not zero, that everyone can agree on.
Kid teaching dad how to install internet filter- now safe for Mom to use. Mom?!
How many of you consider yourselves to know more than your children? Most kids know more about computers than parents- who is the computer expert in your home?
Turn of century, many reasons why their children may not have remained shomer shabbas, mitzvoth, kashrus- one of those reasons is because parents didn’t understand language, culture- no longer an option for us to say I can’t turn on computer on until son comes home from yeshiva- not funny when you can’t fix computer till son comes home- children need to know this valuable tool is something we understand also.
We are digital immigrants; our children are digital natives.
How do we connect to the internet?
Wireless access point- many different looks they may take on- they’re everywhere; people, whether private or cities, used to list all the cities but now too many; Philadelphia contracts for 4000 on light posts, free internet around the whole city- point is that there are many, many cities across country and the world that has free wireless access; point is that your neighbor has anyway, could put password on but according to FBI only 30% of people do that- so anybody else, especially if no password, can go onto the internet from there through that person’s wireless.
So you’re thinking to yourself, not the same, I don’t have a laptop- by the way, it’s almost impossible to buy a laptop without a wireless antenna, you can but it costs more-
Any computer with a simple device- plug this device into the computer- this is USB, goes into USB port, wireless antennae- this can access your neighbor’s wireless hub and any computer becomes a wireless access point- reason I say this is because wireless is becoming ubiquitous, it’s everywhere- for those of you who have children in Israel there are Internet cafes.
When you went to Israel, you probably focused on learning. Now many distractions- DSL or internet connection when calling children- you may be assuming they don’t have a laptop or computer, though many are using one to take notes, but even for those who don’t have that there are internet cafes- those are FULL of yeshiva guys- go to catch the latest episodes of addicting TV shows- Lost, 24, updating email and other social networking services we’ll discuss.
Raul’s difficult transition to age- cartoon [slide]
Cell phones, PDAs, games- if it has a screen, in the near future it will be able to access the internet, watch movies
People probably sending emails right now- I know I saw some people doing that during chazarat hashatz. [laughter]
Old palm pilot, son wants to take to school to put their homework down on it, when they take it to school serves many other functions, little slot on top which holds something besides a postage stamp- this postage stamp sized device could easily be a wireless card for even an old palm pilot or can hold an incredible amount of memory-
Once I walked into a classroom and saw a 7th grade boy hand one of these to a boy standing next to him- walked in with my best principal face and put out my hands and waited for boy so I got the thing in one hand and the Palm Pilot in the other and I said, let me ask you a question
“I have no idea who you are and I don’t want to know who you are- what transaction did I just miss?”
“Plug it in, Rabbi, it’s just a motorcycle racing game”- and it was, but it could have been anything
Perhaps some of you are from this era- floppy disc era- [laughter] this flash drive is 2,856 of these (floppy discs) and for you computer people, I skipped the 24. So big it can hold anything, anything you can imagine can fit on something this size-
GAMES: Playstation portable-
What are the dangers?
- Inappropriate Content- so much inappropriate content, free internet content, paid internet inappropriate pornography content, 12.6 billion dollars a year, more than all the professional sporting franchises combined, almost double ABC, CBS and NBC combined- first exposure, average exposure is 11 years old- Rebbe told me he was working with a talmid who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after watching a beheading video from Iraq. There is a lot of violent, inappropriate content on the web that children cannot handle.
- Harassment- 4.5 daily pornographic emails per person using the internet- not going into risks- not how to protect your computer, viruses, Trojans, everyone knows they need to have a virus protection software
- Downloading a peer-to-peer file-sharing programs- bypass browser window that you’re used to- if you’re used to surfing the internet using an IE window or Netscape or firefox, you don’t need that to do these things- these are programs installed on the computer that say I have a corner of my comp I’ll share w/ you if you’ll share stuff w/ me- recording industry, suing children for sharing songs- 2 or 3000 dollars out of each child they share (or parents)- file sharing programs- when you go home and look at your computer and look at bottom left border of screen, click START, go to All programs and make sure you know what all programs are- some your children added w/o telling you- if you see any of these program-s BitTorrent, LimeWire, Kazaa, Shareaza, Morpheus, Emule…you want them, first of all, not there- it’s incredible what can be shared-
Was in another city, introduced anonymously to 13 year old boy; they told him there’s this guy, a social worker, bound by confidentiality- can tell him anything- he told me he spends 2 to 3 hours a week to download full length pornographic movies- during school. In the summer, he downloads 2-3 hours a day.
I say I can’t help you, don’t know who you are- if you ever felt you were really in trouble, who would you tell?
You know what he told me? Nobody.
Biggest fear to child/ teenager is that parents will overreact and take away his computer.
- Digital convergence- links to great Jewish videos, Yom Yerushalayim videos going around, many popular videos and many inappropriate ones- I made a joke once, someday refrigerators will play videos- sure enough for 3 and 1/2 thousand dollars you can buy an LG refrigerator that can play video.
- MP3 players to play Jewish music and record their shiurim- you know that small MP3 player, only 5000 songs- too small. So we’ll buy the 40 gig one, 15,000 songs, never have to buy me another one- also play 150 hours of movies. Say you know what device your child has. But how is he getting songs ON his MP3 player- probably connecting to computer on his friend’s house? Well, what ELSE is on the computer at his friend’s house?
- Playstation portable is a game for children except that built into it is a wi-fi antennae, internet capable browser you can then surf the internet from your playstation portable- designed to play movies. Playstation portable is not a new thing, been around for years. YOUTube, Google Videos- very inappropriate softcore videos as well, despite there being Jewish videos.
Till now spiritual risks- what about the physical risks?
EXPLOITATION: I had the opportunity to present with the FBI- spent a lot of time talking about exploitation. Children create profiles where they put all their personal information
- Photo/ Web Cam
- Live and video/ Phone
- Meeting in person
“On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog” comic/ cartoon
There is this assumption that there are monsters on the internet that are pretending to be children, luring in other children- not really how it works
96% of predators out there in real-life cases, FBI agent, name is Allison, won't give her last name since she's undercover, told this to me, 96% of offenders did NOT DECEIVE VICTIMS about their ages, identities, no coercion. Reason for that is that these relationships develop over months.
76% of offenders who met their vicitims online used no coercion.
Not seen as strangers but as “online friends they haven’t met yet.”
Predator vs Peer victimization- not the largest percentage of how our children get into trouble- everyone is thinking it’s not my child, Probably is 5%. Serious problem is peer victimization- other frum kids- there's a bumper sticker says on the bottom [of the slide], “Do you know who you’re talking to?” It’s a misnomer, disservice, knowing who you’re talking to is not enough.
Confronted 19 year old yeshiva bachur after he ____ (met up with?) a 15 year old girl- had been instant messenging back and forth, never thought he’d be in same city as her but he was.
Sample IM conversation (put together by a twelve year old)
Did u chek out that new joke site?
Yea it was so funny I was ROFL
D u hav any new budys I can talk to?
S- POS (parents over shoulder) – POP (parents on patrol) – F8 – 9, 99 (9 when parents walk in, 99 when they leave), 111, P911, ASL- 14/ f/ IL
Parent ask “who’re you talking to?” The kid says “It’s my friends.” The parent says okay and then they walk out.
Children tell you that they are only IMing their friends- problem is that “my friend's friend is my friend.”
Sit down and ask your child: How many of these people have you actually seen in person? They may really know their real names, may be- but because it’s anonymous, the perceived anonymity, real or perceived, even if they know their real names, causes language to spiral out of control- language they use during IMing is not what they’d use in person
Cyber Bullying 24/ 7
6.9 million cases of cyber bullying = 33% of US teens
(Cruel messages, unflattering images, texts, web, cell phones) – picked on all the time
Cell phone cameras- banned in locker rooms, kids using camera to take pictures of tests and sending them out, in one case a kid was charging money to let his classmates view a picture of a fellow classmate nude; they arrested him.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
Myspace- 200 million individual users, 200, 000 a day- Myspace is impossible to go through w/o seeing something inappropriate
Our frum kids are much more into Facebook. Facebook is very dangerous right now- used to be only for college students in same college you attended- only people who could see their page-
Now anyone can see Facebook- default setting is that people are private. But I’ve done some not-scientific research about this of the frum kids I’ve tested this with- about 50% will say yes to a friend request if they “seem” Jewish or look like they have Jewish friends
Facebook page of a student of mine- found his page on Facebook and asked him if I could “become” one of his friends, had his phone numbers, email address, called him on his cell phone- keeps a running log of what he’s doing, personal interests, what groups he chooses to join- all kinds of groups, groups on hashgacha pratis, etc
It’s really the way- if you were to try to tell your 18 or 19 year old to stop it tomorrow, they wouldn't- this is the way they communicate- this is their world- many risks involved b/c they share too much info
Employers are doing background checks on applicants by accessing their social network profiles (national association of …)
Blogs are mainly an adult issue- not going to spend a lot of time on it- it’s a serious issue- I have the zechus of dealing about children- solution for children is adults, and only solution for adults is yiras shamayim and some tools involved around the way.
Received a letter from a frum woman- I don’t yet have permission to read here- became totally addicted to time she spent looking at different blogs, chatrooms (on the slideshow screen he has pictures of Yahoo answers, Vos Iz Neias, Yeshiva World, Only Simchas)
Only Simchas- when people say “Mazel Tov” to their friend, they say mazel tov, call me and then put their cellphone numbers up there; that's giving out too much information, now anyone has access to your real name and cell phone number- already situations where pictures on onlysimchas have been used for things the people who put them up didn’t want them used for
LIVE VIRTUAL COMMUNICATION
- Web Cams
- On Line Gaming
- Virtual Reality/ Avatars SIMS
- Obsession/ addiction
- VOIP, Video/ Voice IM
Runescape, Warcraft- these are virtual places where people create avatars- cartoon images of themselves or whatever they want to look like- kind of control these people- waiting for phone call from Rabbi who tells me a kid was playing Runescape- anybody can walk over to anyone else- Rebbe called me a few weeks ago that his 5th grade talmid was approached in Runescape and solicited online- in the game
In South Korea, most wired country in world, 10 documented deaths from Coach-Class syndrome- from sitting in one place too long- internet virtual gaming is such an addiction that they have clinics just for that purpose, just for sitting and playing games
AMA decided last week not to consider it an addiction yet but that it needs further study- 90% play video games, 50% might be addicted.
(In a secular study)
More than 90% of 7th to 10th graders report no parental supervision of their online activities (Kaiser Family Foundation)
69% of 10-17 year old report parents trust them completely to do the right thing on the Internet (University of Pennsylvania)
(In terms of what Rabbi Lowenthal found amongst frum children)
55-95% have unsupervised internet access (research that the Rabbi did)
80-91% report parents trust them to do the right thing online
Trust is not the issue- trust your kid, but you don’t give your 10 year old your car keys..
[Cartoon- frum kid gets the computer, exclamation mark as he sees inappropriate content, kid becomes bad, evil boy with no payos/ strange ponytail]
Most of the time this is not what happens. Boy in screen #4 may look like boy in screen #1 but FEELS like boy of screen #4. There are kids who have too much access, feel addicted to it
Letter of 17 year old boy that I have permission to read to you [I only caught the gist of it; this is a paraphrase:]
- To all those gathered here today- I’m sure you’ve all heard the dangers of the internet- I’m sure you’re all thinking that it’s impossible for you or your children to be affected because you take any possible precaution- top student in my class, I’m the one people go to when I don’t understand something- little do they suspect something- other side of my story- took one mistake to change everything- father had left his email inbox open- just glancing at it, saw email- don’t have to tell you what it’s on- since then faced a major unnecessary battle- can you imagine trying to learn with worst pictures in your head, hating yourself for looking at this garbage but knowing full well you’ll do it again- use protective measures- my grades did not go down, didn’t act differently
SOME OF THE SIGNS:
- Excessive use of online services
- Phone calls or text messages from people you don’t know
- Turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen
- Seeing them walking around w/ removable media like flashdrives or discs
- Behavior changes
- Web Cameras- while they have many wonderful uses- can also be used for inappropriate things
What can be done?
What should be done?
3 part approach-
Leave parental piece to Dr. Pelcovitz who is my role model when it comes to parenting- practical and technological approaches are of no use without effective parenting skills.
Whatever it is, parenting is the key. My 10th grade Rebbe told me he started off every morning teaching Taryag mitzvoth, kibbud av v’eim- kid in his class stood up and screamed, “How can I honor my father when I walk in on him and see that he’s looking at child pornography?” [He explains that is not the norm, but very sad nonetheless]
Practical approach: Never put a computer in your child’s bedroom-
Allison from the FBI has kicked in many doors- predators, child, child sending pictures of themselves which is also a felony- every single time the chld involved had the computer in his bedroom- computers do not belong in private places- they belong in a public place if they’re going to be used-
Blocking, monitoring and filtering
Blocking is not something that is often discussed- blocking means that person using computer at the time is prevented from accessing any internet device/ software through device that blocks it- favorite programs is SpectraPro, reason I recommend it is 24/7 customer service- most powerful software out there.
There are other types of software out there- blocking is important even if you don’t think you have the internet in your home, because like device I had, every user who uses the computer should have their own user account. Windows will explain to you how to create them. All the software that blocks users from accessing the interent does it by username.
Time patrols- block out those times from the internet, even if they need it for homework, willing to let them use it- some kids who are sneaky can catch your password- be aware: password security; key logger software or hardware
Hacker child: Once you’ve got a child with a level of sophistication nothing to stop them if motivated and have a dollar in their pocket- but most kids are not at that level.
- All activity- not just internet
- Screen shots
- Keystroke count
- Privacy issues? (don’t recommend using monitoring software w/o families knowing- sometimes when one is in deep trouble, appropriate to use it but only w/ advice of psychologists and Rabbanim)
- As a deterrent (constant supervision)
- As evidence
Can see which websites this person goes to- now if I’m going to look something up here, say, a private medical issue, then I can’t use this computer as it will be tracked. But that is something I am willing to deal with to monitor myself as well. Can simply say to your child, “I want to watch you all day but can’t be sitting next to you, so I’m going to use this software”- my son knows I know how many keystrokes he has while playing a game, how many times he hit the S key, etc.
Filtering serves a purpose but is secondary- prevents mistakes but can lead to a false sense of security.
Computer- based software filters
- White List
- Black List
Email only, option
White lists- these are the ten (or twenty, or a hundred) websites I’m allowed to go to, can’t go to anything else.
Black lists try to figure out whether the site is on their list of bad sites- even use filters that use skin tone on the screen to try to figure out whether it’s pornography.
Blocking and filtering- if I put software on computer that – K9 protection, no live support because it’s free- plug in using wireless using neighbor’s antennae, will still filter, but if use service provider, unplug from them, plug this in, no filters because it has to be on the machine itself.
For most computers you need something on the computer itself- everyone knows we need Virus Protection software; why don’t we know that we need monitoring software as well?
WindowsVista has this- has parental controls, web restrictions, time limits, which games they can use, can block certain programs from certain users, activity reports.
WindowsVista- now that this is out there’s whole websites and blogs dedicated to how kid can beat it- but most kids aren’t going that far yet .
I started off speaking about frogs, will end with frogs [interrupts himself] speaking to m’chanech recently- said just got internet for the first time:
If you say:
I have a computer in my home…
Fill in the blank:
I use __________ to help protect my family.
In closing, I started with frogs; I’d like to end with frogs. Five frogs in a loft- one frog decides to jump off, how many are left? Five left. Five frogs only decided to jump off- didn’t actually do it- everyone who has decided to do something differently; awareness is what we just spoke about, action part I can’t do.
Vort in name of Kotzker Rabbi- “like arrows in hands of warriors, so youth”
Closer you pull arrow to your heart, so too children will go farther and straighter the closer we hold them to our hearts
It’s 10:00 pm, do you know which website your children are on? (bumper sticker sent to him by rebbetzin in another city)
Rabbi Dr. David Pelcovitz (Lecture entitled Effectively Communicating with Our Children Regarding External Influences: The Balance Between Love & Limits)
Okay, thank you for that excellent presentation and I just want to start with my admiration for the achdus of the community that can bring out this kind of crowd for this kind of a program. One of the truisms in the field of parenting is how incredibly difficult it is to get parents in for parenting lectures, especially on the internet. Something that is difficult and raises anxiety- talking to the group of teachers earlier- talking about gematria of ahavah being identical to word “daagah” something about love where worry and anxiety is inextricably intertwined in the process.
So important to face this- I love the proposal that Rabbi Cohen started with which is the idea of a goal maybe that tonight could be the springboard for of committing to the reality of having our children’s access to the internet never being without the idea of our being there literally or figuratively. And that’s the main message I want to spend my time in sharing with you which is the whole message- what we need to aim for is we can’t lock them up and throw away the key- as we heard from R’ Lowenthal’s important research- can always go to a friends’ house, even if you’re incredibly strict about it- not guaranteed that everyone will be.
How to talk about working together as a kehillah in terms of coming up with the right kind of balance- frog in beaker analogy- that’s the statement I heard made by the Satmer Rebbe in 1950. The Satmer Rebbe at that time said that his Chassidim saw more in one bus ride from Williamsburg to Manhattan than their grandparents saw in a lifetime in the shtetl- since I heard that it’s become very clear to me- imagine what that bus ride would expose people to today- we’re too close to it to see it- sometimes I’ll see a young frum boy or girl who come from a modern background where they’re exposed to the internet or secular world- see chassidish kid who comes from a sheltered neighborhood- they [the chassidish kids] like coming to my neighborhood, don’t think that they’ll bump into anyone they know- little do they know I see a neighbor of theirs; I try not to schedule those meetings back to back.
Something about the purity, the innocence of some of these kids who have not been exposed, who are living in a very sheltered environment- compare it to subtle damage done to children who have been exposed to so much- what it takes to get an R rating in a movie today is completely different from what it took to get an R rating in a movie a generation ago. The standards are changing constantly. The Kaiser Family foundation shows that in every two-year period the amount of negative messages put out by the media in this country, especially in area of kedusha, values of what goes and what doesn’t go is changing tremendously at an increasingly rapid pace- and we are probably too close to to it to see it- in a way it’s too gradual for us to see.
Let me just point out a couple of thoughts- first of all I’ll share with you a study that I did on a different topic but you’ll see how it’s connected-
Number of years ago I was working in a hospital where I was director of psychology- had a clinic for abused children, very horrible situation where it was discovered that the driver of the local preschool bus was pulling up behind the local Sears and abusing children- not a single kid disclosed- he pled guilty to abusing 80 children- we had a clinic for this, was seeing kids- we discovered something unbelievable to us- that every one of the kids had seen an abuse prevention film as part of the regular education film in their preschool- we also found that the same day they saw the film a nurse gave them a lecture that told them EXACTLY WHAT TO DO if somebody touched them inappropriately- was geared to their age level. We then were able to show from court records – on the very day they saw the film they went onto the bus and were abused by this man.
So I did a study- interviewed all these kids and asked them “What were you thinking? Why didn’t the film work?” Not a single kid disclosed even though just before it happened they saw the film! Police found out in totally different way.
Number one answer, “Tell my mother and father what Mr. Bob did to us? They’d kill us! We can’t talk to our parents about this!”
It hit me how incredibly basic message we have to remind ourselves about our achrayus as parents- somehow just in the natural course of events our children will come to us and talk to us about difficult issues, especially in this area- the norm is that we have to overcome our discomfort and overcome a kind of inertia that takes over in terms of reaching out to our children- mentioning to some of our teachers earlier today- Rebbe, R’ Pom (misheard?) zecher tzaddik l’bracha- every time look the other way when we see a child going through a tough time, when dealing w/ children, especially children in pain- over a la’av of “ha’alamah” (misheard?) – can't look other way when there is an unpleasant kind of topic
Interestingly, as Rabbi Lowenthal said that average age of exposure to pornography is age 11, another part of that statistic is that that’s almost always by accident- rare that this starts as a deliberate decision on kid’s part- usually while doing homework, surfing internet as part of an assignment, or bored and multitasking while IMing friend. Certain percentage of friends accidentally get pulled into this.
Let me spell out a general kind of approach here- you’re not going to hear anything you haven’t heard before, nothing earth-shattering about any of this
The goal is monitoring in the context of a good relationship- we know on the one hand the rules without a relationship equals rebellion- if it’s all saying no, they’re not going to come to us- they’re going to go underground
Beautiful insight I heard in the name of R’ Simcha Wasserman- have to find the balance between love and limits- and that’s exactly what to no surprise modern psychology tells us- all love and no limits, grow up to be overindulged and have all kinds of problems, sickness of this generation- we’re specialists in “m’kareves” [to bring close] and not “doche” [to push away.] All limits and no love, has its own set of problems.
R’ Simcha Wasserman says what happens if you take a child and literally put into play what the gemara tells us- push away with left hand and bring closer with right hand- you turn them around- and that is the message of tonight.
How do you find that balance, how do you find the way to somehow on the one hand let them know the key message- the key message is that there is nothing WE do on the internet and that THEY do on the internet that is not completely public- discomfort on many of your parts- half of you read their private activity, like breaking into private diary- but reality is that internet is truly a medium where on top of the fact that yiras shamayim should get us to really control what we’re doing but on top of that there’s nothing that is not accessible by somebody- it’s recorded everywhere. And our children need to know that- that it may FEEL like a private medium, where their privacy should be respected, but the reality is that it isn’t- even though you may not be in their face, no matter what kind of problem they may come into on the internet, they can come to you with it.
Favorite geder of it is geder of monitoring software- very specific recommendations and DVD in your packet that goes into detail on how to order this kind of software- this may make you a little uncomfortable- seems harsh that we don’t trust our children. But it’s not about trust, it’s about adding this geder. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to meet in the last number of years with young yeshiva students/ young Semicha students who are wonderful, wonderful guys who are caught in web of internet pornography addiction- they try as had as they can, most of them have pacts with each other to monitor each other’s internet usage- such a powerful pull as adolescent, adolescent boy incredibly difficult to control.
In terms of the basic approach, is to set up your rules- even if child already has computer in their bedroom, no reason it can’t be taken back, true they’ll be upset but that’s fine- limit-setting is part of good parenting. Incredible midrash that sounded alien to me and then saw brilliance of it-
Pasuk in misheli “yasser binkha ki yesh tikvah v’eil amiso”
Put limits on your children; don’t pay attention to their crying, yelling and screaming.
Here’s what the midrash says- and think about how important a message it is and how antithetical it is to prevailing pop culture- “kol ha’mosiv av …” the more limits a father puts on his son, the more that son will love the father. It is SO true.
I’ve had at least four times in my career- actually it happened just a few weeks ago, the privilege of this kind of perspective- been doing this for 30 years- have kids in my office who as adolescents were screaming, yelling, losing temper beyond control- they would go nuts, “all my friends are allowed to stay out late on a school night, allowed to do that’- never met that friend by the way, maybe lives in Chicago, always the same friend I’m hearing about- not a surprising thing to hear from an adolescent- these adolescents are now adults with their own children- bringing children to see me. Be careful about wishing children to have a child just like them- on at least four occasions- adolescents who are now adults, remember fifteen years ago in your office I was going crazy and was so angry at my parents for putting limits down- EVEN THEN I was happy that they were saying no- we can’t take out our yardstick and have kids pushing back- hopefully make this “shaveh l’kol” – community wide kind of approach.
R’ Cohen reminded me a story about one of my patients- beautiful smol docheh story- number of years ago saw a 15 year old boy from a wonderful family, going to Mesivta in the New York area- unfortunately his parents, who were wonderful right-hand specialists, not so good w/ docheh- he was spiraling out of control, getting worse and worse- I knew, his parents didn’t know that he was beginning to get involved in all kinds of dangerous activities- kids can’t grow w/o setting those limits. Called family meeting, his parents started reading him the riot act- taking away his credit card, all these abusive things the kid thought- just setting down rules- he is getting more and more furious and as they are laying down the rules he’s at the point where I was afraid he was going to hit his father or mother-so I asked them to leave his office so I could talk to him.
As soon as he’s sure they’re out of earshot, he whispers to me, “Doc, you know something? It’s about time”
Then bumped into him much later- he became one of the leading Kiruv Rabbeim in Eretz Yisrael- needed a little more of the left hand.
Key first message- don’t be afraid to take the computer out of the bedroom, set it up in a public place, some might decide not to have internet in the first place- realistically, if you’re going to have it and I understand it’s a very complicated issue- just begin to let your child know a few things-
a) is there a way that they really do have to understand that you are and you installed this kind of monitoring software- not micro-managing,, you’re going to know what’s happening- communicate, talk to them- name the monster, not in an angry way, again, in the context of a good relationship- I see that when parents are able to do that children will actually volunteer to talk to them about that. I have the opposite experience when I speak about this topic with children- children are concerned about popup ads- worried and losing sleep over it- I ask them why can’t you go to your parents to talk to them about, they answer me the same thing as the abused children said, “Tell my parents? They’d kill me.” Again, we have to change that. Rules Without Relationships= Rebellion
I want to just finish this segment by sharing with you something that’s obvious- friend Jim Barbarino, well known psychologist, professor at Cornell- wanted to look at how adolescent rebellion looked in different parts of the world- starts by going to Amish Country and asks teenagers- kids don’t want to tell him, worried about chillul Hashem- so he said, tell me about some of the rebels in your town
So they said well there is a kid who is a little bit on the fringe, sometimse he’ll wear a pink handkerchief in his jacket pocket- “Whoah,” said Barbarino, “I hear.” (laughter) But he explains he wants to hear the WORST rebellion.
They said, “Look, not our town, but a neighboring Amish town, and it’s only a rumor- heard there was once a kid who hitched a ride on a tractor.”
So there the ultimate rebellion was going on mechanized machinery- major rebellion in that world.
Went to investigate adolescent rebellion in Lebanon, early 70s I believe, height of war there- there such a breakdown in society, in limit-setting that the only way to rebel was to open fire on members of your own clan.
Took from this multi-cultural research is the way adolescents work is they’re always going to set the line- they need to define themselves by hitting up the line somewhere- we need to draw the line in a different place than it’s been drawn- first time in history, probably, where there’s a major force shaping lives of children/ adolescents where children/ adolescents know more than adults- seems unprecedented to me, time to take it back.
Take it back with difficult work of finding this balance.
One more point ad then I think it’s time-
And that’s a little bit about shipuh- I’ve been very taken by the brilliant insight of R’ Yaakov Kamenetzky Z’tzal where he says parents aren’t exactly mechanchim; they are mashpiiim. What does the Hebrew word shipuah mean? It’s their ramps- their ramps- without even knowing it, our activities ramp down to our children- way husband treats wife, way wife treats husband, their exposure to our core values- we’re constantly, constantly sending messages to our children- message about internet that’s a little more subtle than horribly upsetting stories than children stumbling upon their fathers looking at pornography- many of you thinking that’s not me and I hope it’s not- I’m talking about more the concept of time.
The message to our children about multitasking- I once hear from R’ Yaakov’s son, R’ Shmuel, that he doesn’t allow cell phones in the Philadelphia yeshiva- because if a boy has a cell phone, then he’s not in the Philadelphia yeshiva- such a brilliant insight. And this is from before cell phones had internet.
You’re not there if you can be pulled away any minute- you’re not there if you can be multitasking
2 and ½ year old grandson came to visit from eretz yirael. I hadn’t been in a park for a generation; so it’s Sunday and late in the morning and I was excited, get to go to the park again- shlepped my poor grandson and shlepped him to the park and the first thing I see- I was so happy- I see a group of fathers pushing their children on the swings- I said oh wow, fathers have become much more actively involved- and then I see that every one of them has a Bluetooth headphone in his ear- they were there, and they were not there. And I felt terrible for these children- I’m seeing kids who are suffering from the lack of full attention from their parents- even when we drive, constantly on cell phone or blackberries- turned into age of communication without connection, information without knowledge- inundated w/ competing kinds of messages- what does it mean if that’s what we’re showing our children- what does it mean if we kill time- horrible concept for Jews- waste time by just being on the internet and doing the same thing ourselves- parenting “shipua”- message needs to be that we GIVE our children our undivided attention- using internet in proper way that models values we dream about.
So the bottom line is- what tonight was about is coming together as a kehillah- wonderful that Chicago can be a model for the rest of the country on this- and coming together as parents who aren’t afraid to find that balance between “smol doche” and “m’kareves” – challenge of this generation. Not going to horrify you with stories- heard enough, heard what we needed to hear
Let me end with a somewhat upbeat story- right kind of connection- not here to depress, here to just get you thinking- story about my wife’s uncle was an American soldier in World War 2 and he tells this story of having been part of a group of soldiers who were liberating others in concentration camps and the commanding officer gets up and tells them you know you’ve been giving candy bars to children all over Europe- number of children survived this camp, digestive systems are so undeveloped so one candy bar could prove fatal- go in, see this children, DON’T give them candybars- so this American soldier goes to the children’s barracks, sees horrible scene and wants to do something- he spontaneously goes to one of the children and gives him a hug and the soldier says from one end of the children’s barracks to the other a line of children formed waiting for a hug.
Message about antithesis of what we’re talking about tonight- message of a true connection, message of achdus, message of hugging our children, because we’re all living in a generation where we have the ability to do that- challenge to filter through noise and hug our children, way to filter through noise and set the limits necessary.
Rabbi Harvey Well
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