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."