Monday, October 03, 2005

On the Internet and Parental Responsibility

Much electronic ink is being spilled over the recent takanos from the Lakewood community regarding the availability of the Internet to children. I don't think I have to belabor the obvious pitfalls that the Internet holds.

However, there is one aspect of this whole affair that bothers me. Specifically, whose job is it to raise a child - the parents' or the Yeshiva?

The takanos that were enacted seem to say to me that the latter, and not the former, is the final authority on how a child is raised. The takanos (to me, anyway) seem to be telling the parents "You cannot be trusted to advise your children which parts of the Internet are healthy and good and which are unhealthy and bad; so we will make that decision for you. Furthermore, unless you have a real business need (subject to our discretion) you cannot be trusted for yourself either."

Now, we all know that there are parents who are not careful with what their children do and watch. We all know that there are children who watch TV shows that they shouldn't, read material that they shouldn't and visit web sites that they shouldn't. But, I'm willing to bet, in the vast majority of those cases, we are dealing with parents who, either out of excessive permissiveness, sheer laziness or naiviety (or some combination of all three) abdicate their authority as guardians of what their children see, hear and participate in.

Unfortunately, you cannot legislate good parenting. There will always, among us, be parents who fall on all sides of the spectrum, from the stifling, overbearing and overprotective, to the extremely permissive and not caring. Most of us, I'd like to believe, fall somewhere in the middle, in the "golden norm;" we watch what our children watch, we know what our children read, and we introduce them to more mature concepts (whether it be death, love, sexuality or any other concept) in an age-appropriate manner and time. We don't let our children have free reign of the library, the internet or the video store (or even our own video shelves at home).

The question it seems before us is this: We all know that there are those of us who abdicate our parental authority and guidance. Is it the yeshiva's place to stand in for the parents and "take control" from them. And, if so, then is it the yeshiva's place to stand in and "take control" even for those parents who do control their children's access to the Internet. In other words, if I want to shop on Amazon.com, pay my bills on line, be able to download a shiur, or even write a blog, is it the Yeshiva's place to come into my home and say "because there are negligent parents, we won't allow you to do any of these things - regardless of how well you may restrict your childrens' access to the Internet."

The Wolf

22 comments:

daat y said...

great post.I agree.So they are treating everyone like a child,.

queeniesmom said...

Shanna tova, gemar hatimim tovim.
this is more of the same , ie we can't trust you, we know best and we want/have full control. can we (all parents) stage our own revolt and interject some reality into this craziness. like you i moniter what my kids see, read, and watch - please trust me w/a little bit of sense. i keep hoping that the black hat will confine themselves and their edicts to their own little "shtetles (sp?, sorry)" and leave the rest of us alone. can't i have my delusions?! until then like you i'll do my own brainwashing of my children so they grow up open minded - knowing there is a big world out there that they're part of. that they can be anything they want to be! plumber, "wireman" (translation - verizon serviceman) are the current choices, as they're only 5. we'll see what time brings. who knows one of mine may join s1 as a zoologist.

Tova said...

Like I said in an earlier comment, where are the schools for the normal people?!

It drives me crazy that just because a few parents don't have common sense, the schools issue "decrees" that punish people who do have common sense when it comes to raising kids.

Boruch said...

The problem, of course, is that no matter how good of a parent you are, you cannot control what they are exposed to while in school. If your child is in a class with children whose parents are not as responsible as you, then your efforts are being undermined. The schools believe they have a responsibility to control the school environment by enforcing standards at home.

Anonymous said...

Boruch, you're wrong. Hashem said don't eat the fruit, not don't touch the tree. Do you agree also that children of Baalei Teshuva shouldn't be allowed into schools because they are exposed to their frei relatives, and will this bring a negative influence to their classmates?

BrooklynWolf said...

Boruch,

You have a valid point... sort of. Certainly one's child can be influenced by others in the class, and that is something a parent has little control over.

But then what's the solution? Apply the absolute strictest standard of any parent into the class? What if I allow my kid to read Harry Potter but another parent calls it "kishuf" and says that reading such things is the antithesis of Torah? Should all parents now be forced because of one parent's position to ban Harry Potter books from the house on pain of expulsion from the school? If your answer is yes, then I have to ask what's next? Newspapers? Classical music? A radio in the home? Secular studies in general?

If a person is that concerned that any little idea or concept will irreperably harm their child, then they should take the child home and teach him/her in their own home. Part of the idea of going to school (aside from the obvious acedemic, of course) is to learn to socialize. Part of learning to socialize is to learn to deal with people who are different than you - if we were all the same, then there would be no need to learn social skills.

You write: The schools believe they have a responsibility to control the school environment by enforcing standards at home.

The key word in your sentence (as I read it) is *believe.* But is that really the case? I ask a lot of things from my kids' yeshivos - I ask that they be taught, that they be given a safe environment to interact with other children, that they learn and learn how to learn (both Torah and secular subjects). It is *not* the yeshiva's job to instill the child with morals, nor is it the schools job to shield my child from what it feels is unacceptable. That's my job. And while it would be nice to know that my children are going to go to school and not be exposed to anything that I don't want them exposed to - I know that we don't live in a perfect world and children cannot be raised in a bubble. Children *will* eventually learn things that you don't want them to know. A parent's job is to deal with that fact - not hide from it.

The Wolf

SephardiLady said...

Excellent, excellent point. You are one of the first people who I have "talked" to who I believe has sequestered and identified _one_ of the bottom line issues, which is who is responsible for raising children?

I believe that the parents are the people responsible for raising their children and the schools are only partners in this mission. However, I think many parents have turned the job over to the schools and now we are ALL paying for it.

Re: The internet. I believe that parents should be the ones deciding how this form of technology will be used in their home. Certainly the internet has a lot of dangers and it is important that anyone who recognizes the dangers let others be made aware, but the internet also has the capability to make our lives much easier and more convient too.

I was particularily bothered by the ban on "casual use" which was defined as shopping, airline tickets, and I presume banking too. While I don't know my neighbor's capabilities, I know my capabilities and I consider my "casual" use of the internet (insofar as it is defined as using the internet for banking, shopping, and more) as . I don't have a large family (yet) and I consider the internet vital for maintaining my sanity regarding the art of homemaking and keeping our home financially healthy. I am essentially able to keep shopping outside of the home to a minimum thanks to the internet and I am able to do my banking at all hours. Imagine what a bracha the internet provides for LARGE families who are short of time, even more so than money.

BrooklynWolf said...

Heck, my kids' yeshivos get paid through the internet. :)

My wife and I were sometimes lax about paying the tuition bills. However, in order to make it easier for us and to automate the payments, we now pay through the Internet (using online banking). Without that, we'd be back to the old system - which didn't always work so well.

I wonder what they would say to that. :)

The Wolf

queeniesmom said...

wolf -
unfortunately book banning is occurring. i was severely chastised for letting my 7yr. old read the narnia chronilces. silly me, i was happy she was reading and that she wanted to read. we read many of the books together and i still don't see how this would warp her. to her it was a fun story - any symbolism it might have had (i'm not sure i buy it but that's another whole story) was lost on her.

like everything else the internet is a tool . the key is how you use it. technology is changing by the minute. are we going to become ostriches or like the amish and refuse to be part of this world? what type of disservice will we be doing to our children re: jobs?

i forgot - everyone should sit and learn. although i never did figure out who will support everyone, but that's another whole topic.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>(i'm not sure i buy it but that's another whole story

The Chronicles of Narnia is rather explicitly a Christian allegory. It's author, C.S. Lewis, was a Christian theologian. He made no secret that Aslan is Jesus (Aslan even means 'lion', as in 'Lion of Judah').

In fact, in a charming book of correspondence between C.S. Lewis and children (and parents) there is a letter by a mother who is worried because her son said he loves Aslan more than he loves Jesus. C.S. Lewis soothingly responds not to worry since Aslan and Jesus are one and the same.

BrooklynWolf said...

I read the Narnia series when I was younger without any knowledge of the symbolism comtained within the novels (or at least in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe). It wasn't until much later that I learned about C.S. Lewis and the idea behind the story.

Considering the origin and purpose of the TLTW&TW, I can understand why a yeshiva would not want it brought onto it's grounds.

The Wolf

momof4 said...

Great post, Wolf. This is definitely a big issue in the yeshiva world. It is this attitude that the Yeshiva takes over parental responsibility that creates a rule system where many Yeshiva High Schools have prohibited students to spend 3 out of 4 shabbosim with their parents, and make them "in shabbosim". I don't know how I would be able to give my son up for three shabbosim out of every month.

Circle in Square said...

My blog is more or less dedicated to this issue, but I'm refraining from bloggic pas akum these days.

I'll iy"h be speaking out about this in the future.

Daas Torah and emunas chachamim are being severely tested by these issues.

daat y said...

parents are the rav muvhak of their children.They know them best.

Boruch said...

wolf-

>It is *not* the yeshiva's job to instill the child with morals, nor is it the schools job to shield my child from what it feels is unacceptable.

That is true. It is the job of the parents to determine the morals they teach to their children. The school, as the tool of the community (i.e. the parents), is designed to provide an education which is consistent with those morals. As such, its decisions as to what to allow/prohibit should accurately reflect the will of that community. It should not be banning whatever some lone parent feels is objectionable but rather that which the body as a whole finds objectionable. Whether that includes the Internet, Harry Potter, or anything else depends on the makeup of that particular school...as it should.

Still Wonderin' said...

"Considering the origin and purpose of the TLTW&TW, I can understand why a yeshiva would not want it brought onto it's grounds. "

Perhaps, but only if the rabbinic banner knew of the theologic themes in the book. If he just banned it because... then he's an idiot!

Then, of course, the banner's rebuttal will be, "You see! We can't know EVERYTHING, so we just make blanket bans BECAUSE of instances like this..., in which case, he's STILL an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Sholosh tshuvos Bdovor,#1 the issue is not who is "RESPONSIBILL".Rather a public response to a malignancy that is spreading like the plauge ,thus being a major public health hazzard.#2 To curb this dreaded disease ,it is vital to undercut the whole premise that nurtures it,that being the complacency "WELL THATS LIFE THESE DAYS,YOU EXPECT ME TO GO BACK TO THE DARK AGES? {this blog not withstanding}.#3 Would any normal parent knowingly send their child to a school that has a pedefile in its midst? ,. A claasmate with internet access can deprive a child of his/her innocence much faster then the affore mentioned analogy.GK----- Original Message -----

Anonymous said...

Sholosh tshuvos Bdovor,#1 the issue is not who is "RESPONSIBILL".Rather a public response to a malignancy that is spreading like the plauge ,thus being a major public health hazzard.#2 To curb this dreaded disease ,it is vital to undercut the whole premise that nurtures it,that being the complacency "WELL THATS LIFE THESE DAYS,YOU EXPECT ME TO GO BACK TO THE DARK AGES? {this blog not withstanding}.#3 Would any normal parent knowingly send their child to a school that has a pedefile in its midst? ,. A claasmate with internet access can deprive a child of his/her innocence much faster then the affore mentioned analogy. GK
----- Original Message -----

BrooklynWolf said...

Boruch,

I agree with you to a point. The school does represent the parent body as a whole. However, the school should not have the power to legislate how non-students live their lives - and that's exactly what is happening here.

If the takana that was put out was "No students should access the Internet on pain of expulsion" there probably wouldn't be such a tummult. But that's not what's happening here. Here, the decree is "No one (meaning parents, grandparents, graduated siblings, etc.) in a household with a student can access the internet, on pain of expulsion." That's a different story altogether.

My kids' yeshiva has a rule that no student can go to the movies... and that's fine - my kids don't go to the movies. But they have no right to legislate that *I* don't go - I'm not their student and not "in their care." Clearly the Lakewood yeshiva is overstepping it's bounds here.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Anonymous:

,#1 the issue is not who is "RESPONSIBILL".Rather a public response to a malignancy that is spreading like the plauge ,thus being a major public health hazzard

Public health hazard??? If that's the case, then outlaw cars, since they are a public health hazard too - thousands of people die in them every year. The fact that we don't shows that we rely on people to be R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-L-E to use them wisely and not under the influence of alcohol.

If you're truly going to be consistent about eliminating things that are a "public health hazard" I can think of a dozen things to get rid of that are far more hazardous to your health than the Internet.

.#2 To curb this dreaded disease ,it is vital to undercut the whole premise that nurtures it,that being the complacency "WELL THATS LIFE THESE DAYS,YOU EXPECT ME TO GO BACK TO THE DARK AGES? {this blog not withstanding)

See my above note. So cut out the complacency about cars.

}.#3 Would any normal parent knowingly send their child to a school that has a pedefile in its midst? ,. A claasmate with internet access can deprive a child of his/her innocence much faster then the affore mentioned analogy.

A child whose parents uses the Internet is not a pedophile. Even the child of an actual honest-to-badness pedophile is still not a pedophile.

Any child can cause another child to lose his/her innocence, with or without the internet. But again, the issue here isn't really children accessing the internet - if it was just a simple rule of "no children in the yeshiva can access the Internet" I wouldn't have such a problem with this. But rather the yeshiva is overextending it to the parents and other non-students as well.

The Wolf

Boruch said...

Wolf-

So you are saying that if the school were to remove most of the takanos but leave in the part that applies to those with an ishur (namely that kids can't use it, that it must be kept locked away, that kids may not see it in use, etc.) you would be ok with it?

That seems to be in contradiction to what you yourself stated as your main point: "However, there is one aspect of this whole affair that bothers me. Specifically, whose job is it to raise a child - the parents' or the Yeshiva?"

The part about your freedom as an adult was secondary.

BrooklynWolf said...

No, I wouldn't be completely OK with it (as I am not completely OK with my kids' schools rules) but I could certainly better understand the rationale, and the school could impose it without causing major headaches for the parents.

I put up with my kids' schools' rules for two reasons:

1. I'm happy (overall - I do have some complaints here and there) with the job they are doing and (more importantly)

2. I knew the rules going in. The yeshiva didn't suddently switch the rules on us in mid-stream. If I know the rules going in, and accept them, then I'm obligated to follow through on them; whether I personally agree with them or not. *That's* why my kids don't go to the movies - not because I have any philisophical problem with the concept of a movie theathre.

The Wolf