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Wednesday
Mar272019

Will My Child Feel Deprived?

By Rabbi Leib Aber

QUESTION >

I am a young parent who is well aware of the potential harms of technology and the outside influences it can bring. I am doing my best to protect my children and don’t let them access social media and overuse technology. But I am concerned they will grow up feeling deprived, especially with almost everyone around them having it available. What would you advise me?

***

Answer >

 Many thanks for your letter. As you mentioned, you realize the harmful effect of the internet, but you don’t want them to feel deprived, with all their friends having unlimited access. Parents want their children to have warm feelings about their childhood and not to look back with resentment.

Presumably, you feed your children only kosher food. Suppose you reach the lane in a supermarket which has non-kosher candies, does your child throw a tantrum when he or she is told, ‘No’? I doubt it. The child simply knows that you would never buy non-kosher candies. You don’t have to persuade the child that your viewpoint is correct. All you need to do is to say it’s not kosher in a calm voice. The child knows that we live our lives with kosher food and it is not negotiable. The child doesn’t feel deprived.

So too with the internet. In your family, these are the standards. We don’t eat non-kosher candies, and we don’t have unfiltered internet. Just like the non-kosher food issue, no discussion is even necessary.

This strategy works for young children.

But as soon as the child reaches the teenage years and wants to make his or her own decisions, it becomes more difficult. He or she thinks, “Why should I be deprived of (unfiltered) internet access when my friends aren’t? Now that I’m older, why can’t I exercise my inalienable rights for freedom?”

Maybe your teenager will listen when you tell them that internet is dangerous; that people are looking to trick him/her into clicking to sell them something; or to involve them in bad things, or to try to meet them, that it can be addictive, that it can tempt them with many aveiros. Perhaps they might understand that the kosher way to use the internet is with restricted access. But maybe the teenager will resent the censorship and feel deprived or ignore your request.

The only way to overcome the feeling of being deprived is to substitute it with something better instead — like the simcha of Torah and Mitzvos and the pride of being in the Rebbe Melech Hamoshiach’s army. The answer is to use this discussion about the internet as an amazing opportunity to teach the child to push away darkness by adding light. Learning at a Chassidishe Yeshiva or seminary should make the teenager feel a purpose in life. They will be kept busy with positive inyonim and realize that they are not being deprived by not going on the internet. When the teenager is motivated to learn, daven, do mivtzoyim, create Jewish children’s programs, compete in hachanah programs and go to farbrengens, then this light pushes away the temptation, darkness, and filth of the internet.

It is important to teach our kids that the filth of the internet is worse than non-kosher food since it is addictive. Very addictive. And it offers instant gratification.

Being realistic: even if your child only has filtered internet access (which is a halachically required and very sensible precaution) the rest of the world has access, and some friends have no filters. In a micro-second, with one click, your child can see very graphic images and be tempted to return later. Becoming addicted is too easy.

Because your child is likely to have a friend who has access, it is all the more important to educate your child how to recognize the dangers. When a child has guidance about the overall impact of the internet on people, he or she is more likely to stop him/herself from being innocently carried away.

Harping on the negative effects of the internet to a teenager will not necessarily be the most effective tool. The teenager needs to know that the internet can be very harmful, but the parent should avoid putting the child down for their temptation. That strategy could backfire. If the internet becomes too criticized, it could inadvertently create a sense of curiosity about it. Rather, parents should give constructive, realistic information that can prepare them to see the challenge through Jewish eyes.

To counter curiosity about the goyish world, we can encourage our children to koch in something positive, something that arouses the positive aspect of curiosity — the Chassidus about Moshiach. When the child (and we are all children at heart…) is motivated to want a better world, when the child is motivated that the whole goal of the world is to be a dwelling place for Hashem, then the essence of the neshama is touched. Nothing can defile this essence, not even the k’lipa and shmutz found on the internet. In the Sichos of 5752, the Rebbe spoke about how the Jewish child should be educated to want Moshiach. The motivation for children to learn can be that they simply want to bring Hashem into the world, to be able to see G-dliness, to want to make this world a home for Hashem.

The best way to accomplish this wonder in our children is to be a dugma chaya of it ourselves.

***

Rabbi Leib Aber has been involved in Chinuch for over 30 years, under the Rebbe’s guidance, in Cheder Chabad of Sydney and elsewhere. He has taught a variety of ages.

Further Chinuch-related question can be addressed to him through Beis Moshiach by emailing chinuch@BeisMoshiach.org

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